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The Prosecutor v. Callixte Nzabonimana

Court International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Tanzania
Case number ICTR-98-44D-T
Decision title Judgement and Sentence
Decision date 31 May 2012
  • The Prosecutor
  • Callixte Nzabonimana
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide
Keywords extermination, genocide, Murder
Other countries involved
  • Rwanda
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Following the death of Rwandan President Habyariamana in April 1994, an interim government was established in Rwanda within which Callixte Nzabonimana held the position of Minister of Youth and Associative Movements.

The Trial Chamber found that Nzabonimana was a figure of authority in Gitarama as a result of this position and his role in the political party, MNRD. Evidence presented led the Trial Chamber to conclude that the Accused had used this position of authority to direct the Hutu civilian population and commune policemen to attack the Tutsi’s. He did so by making a number of speeches, and further, by threatening local officials with death or replacement in the event that they opposed the killing of Tutsis.  His orders were carried out by Hutu civilians and by commune policemen who proceeded to attack and kill Tutsi civilians. Accordingly, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda convicted the Accused of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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Procedural history

On 21 November 2001, Callixte Nzabonimana was indicted alongside Augustin Bizimana, Edouard Karemera, André Rwamakuba, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, Joseph Nzirorera, Felicien Kabuga and Juvénal Kajelijeli.

On 8 October 2003, Trial Chamber III ordered that the case of Nzabonimana be severed from the initial indictment.

On 18 February 2008, Nzabonimana was arrested in Tanzania.

He first appeared before the Tribunal on 20 February 2008 at which time he pleaded not guilty to all counts against him.

On 21 July 2009, Trial Chamber III authorised the Prosecution to amend the indictment.

On 24 July 2009, the Prosecution filed an amended indictment, dropping six of the previous charges against Nzabonimana. He is charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder as crimes against humanity.

The trial commenced on 9 November 2009 and concluded on 12 September 2011.

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Related developments

Defence counsel for Nzabonimana has appealed both the judgment and the sentence. The appeal is currently under way.

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Legally relevant facts

Nzabonimana was the Rwandan Minister  of Youth and Associative Movements in the Interim Government from April to mid-July 1994 and served as Chairman of the MRND political party in Gitarama during the events (paras. 5, 89).

Following the death of the Rwandan President Habyarumana on 6 April 1994, the political party system in Gitarama broke down and the factions of the various political parties aligned with the Accused’s political party, the MRND. The MRND recruited members and stood for Hutu party unity, espousing a struggle against the Tutsi enemy (para. 90).

The Accused participated in a number of meetings at which the objective of destroying the Tutsi enemy was propounded including at the Butare Trading Centre and the Cyayi Centre (paras. 734, 887, 938). Tutsi refugees were subsequently killed at Nyabikenke commune office by commune policemen and Hutu civilians (paras. 910, 913, 936, 939). Additionally, the Accused encouraged the release of a number of Tutsi killers who had been imprisoned in Rutobwe with a view to encourage more killings of Tutsi in reprisal (paras. 1063, 1076).

The Accused directed a number of threats against local officials who may be opposed to the killing of Tutsis, whether by threatening them with death or replacement in their posts by members of the Interahamwe militia (paras. 1158, 1179, 1224). 

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Core legal questions

  • When is a speech to be considered a direct incitement to commit genocide?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 2(2) and 6 of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

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Court's holding and analysis

In order for an incitement to be direct, it must be a direct appeal to commit an act criminalised under the Statute of the Tribunal and must be more than a vague or indirect suggestion. Direct and public incitement is an inchoate offence meaning it is punishable even if no act of genocide resulted from it. That a speech leads to the commission of an act of genocide may be an evidentiary indication that the context in which the speech was made was intended by the speaker to be an incitement to genocide. However, it is not possible to infer solely from the subsequent commission of the act of genocide that the speech was intended to incite genocide (para. 1752). The Chamber concluded that the Accused’s speeches at the Butare Trading Centre and the Cyayi Centre satisfied the afore-mentioned requirements (paras. 1762, 1768).

The Accused was convicted of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity (para. 1800). He was sentenced to life imprisonment (para. 1822).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials

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