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News Release on Dr. Ngirabatware's case

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The Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers gave the first Pan African address to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) urging the Court to withstand the political pressure to convict Dr Augustin Ngirabatware, the former Minister of Planning accused of Genocide, Incitement, and Crimes against Humanity in 1994.

Lead Counsel, Peter Herbert O.B.E.,  a member of the English Bar and part time Judge joined by Mylene Dimitri, Co Counsel from, Montreal Canada supported by a defence team drawn from France and Rwanda gave the Defence Opening speech to a stunned Court 2 at the ICTR.

Mr Herbert spoke passionately of his personal experience of combating Hate Crime and his meeting with the current US Attorney General Eric Holder in August 1998 on the morning when the terrorist atrocities flattened the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam  when Rwanda was touched upon. He made reference to the interconnected human suffering illustrated by the image of a young African woman pictured in the Holocaust museum in Washington, forcibly sterilised for her ethnicity in 1934.

He said that the African Judges of the ICTR had a special responsibility not to Judge fellow Africans on a lesser standard of proof  and not to succumb to the political pressure from the Rwandese Government and others for whom the conviction of the Minister was seen as a necessity. In a speech, heavy with historic references to Kwame Nkurumah and Franz Fanon, he urged a fair and just approach in a Tribunal set up by an international community that had never asked the Rwandan people their views on reconciliation and had failed in that task just as they had failed to protect their lives in 1994.

Mr Herbert methodically ridiculed the Prosecution case which had the Minister hauling guns, grenades and weapons up a hillside in his native Nyamyumba commune, near Gisenyi 180 kilometres from Kigali in the immediate aftermath of the shooting down of President Habryiaman’s plane. He stated that even the Prosecution themselves led evidence that he was in the French Embassy and the Presidential Guard camp whilst he was allegedly in Gisenyi distributing weapons and giving Hate Speech.

The Minister, one of Rwandans leading economists at the time, had originally been accused of diverting donor funds to further the genocide, allegations which have now been withdrawn by an increasingly weak and desperate Prosecution team.

Mr |Herbert, spoke of Defence witnesses who would show that the prosecution witnesses had been trained, suborned, threatened and offered inducements to come and testify against the Minister. He quoted the words of Dr Martin Luther King, who said thatThe truth crushed to Earth will rise.  The arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice. No lie will live forever”

He went on to state that the defence would call witnesses who were Gacaca Judges in trials where the Ministers name had never been mentioned by any prosecution witness who had testified about the same matters in the same commune, by witnesses who are Tutsi and Hutu alike, rich and poor, male and female who had never heard or seen the Minister take any part in the genocide or crimes against humanity.

The ICTR was criticized as amounting to only “Victor’s justice” which had consistently failed to place any member of the present Rwandan Government on trial for their crimes before, during and after 1994, with poor safeguards to prevent an unfair trial through prosecution witnesses effectively supplied and trained by the Rwandan state authorities. He cited one such Prosecution witness ANAN, a convicted genocide killer of men, women and children, who when asked by Lead Counsel if he had “enjoyed the killing”? replied, “Yes, I did”  showing absolutely no remorse for his actions.

Peter Herbert urged the Judges to be brave and withstand the political pressure on them to convict an innocent man by quoting from the Quran where it is said, Surah Al Nisa (4:135) “ O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parent, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor....stand out firmly for justice” ….Quran Surah Al Ma'idah (5:8)“...Let not the hatred of a people swerve you away from justice.  Be just, for this is closest to righteousness....”

In one of the strongest speeches ever heard at the ICTR lead Counsel humbly paid tribute to the victims of hate crimes in Rwanda and around the world and said that they had only ever wished for justice and never retribution against the innocent. He closed his remarks with a powerful quote from Dr Martin Luther King made on the night before he was shot when he said,

“In finding justice every valley shall be exalted and every hill shall be made low.  The crooked place shall be made straight and the rough places made plain.  And all flesh shall see it together.  The truth will set you free.  Truth crushed to Earth will rise.  The universe is on our side.  Truth forever on a scaffold wrong forever on the thrown.  Yet, that scaffold sways the future and behind stands God within the shadow keeping watch on his own.”

Dr Ngirabatware began his evidence before the President Sekule, Judges Bossa and Rajohnson.  For  further information please see www.blacklawyer.net; www.peterherbert.net or email pherb5law@aol.com or call +255 684059023


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