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Georges Anderson Nderubumwe Rutaganda v. The Prosecutor

Court International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Appeals Chamber), Tanzania
Case number ICTR-96-3-A
Decision title Judgement
Decision date 26 May 2003
  • The Prosecutor
  • Georges Anderson Nderubumwe Rutaganda
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide, War crimes
Keywords common Article 3, genocide, killing, Murder, Non-international armed conflict
Other countries involved
  • Rwanda
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Following the death of Rwandan President Habyariamana on 6 April 1994, ethnic tensions in Rwanda between the Hutu and Tutsi populations reignited. President Habyariamana’s political party, the Mouvement Républicain National pour le Développement et la Démocratie (MRND) and its youth militia wing, the Interahamwe, began perpetrating a number of widespread abuses against Tutsis and moderate Hutu’s as punishment for what many perceived to be the deliberate death of the former Hutu president.

Georges Rutaganda was a member of the MRND and the Second Vice President of the Interahamwe since 1991. The Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found that he had used his position of authority over the Interahamwe to distribute weapons, order the separation of the Hutu from the Tutsi and direct the massacre of thousands of Tutsis, particularly in connection with incidents at the Amgar garage and the Technical College, ETO. He was convicted of genocide and murder and extermination as crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment.

On appeal by both the Prosecution and counsel for Rutaganda, the Appeals Chamber had the occasion to clarify the law applicable to the special intent for the crime of genocide and the nexus requirement for war crimes. As a result of its findings in the latter area, the Appeals Chamber entered two new convictions for murder as a war crime, the first conviction of this kind before the Tribunal. Rutaganda’s sentence was confirmed and he was transferred to Benin where he died in prison on 11 October 2010.

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Procedural history

On 13 February 1996, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted the Accused, Georges Anderson Nderubumwe Rutaganda for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Indictment was confirmed on 16 February 1996.

Rutaganda was transferred from Zambia, his place of arrest, to the detention facility of the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania on 26 May 1996.

The trial commenced on 18 March 1997 and concluded on 17 June 1999.

On 6 December 1999, the Accused was convicted of genocide and extermination and murder as crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Both Rutaganda and the Prosecution appealed the judgement and the sentence on 5 and 6 January 2000 respectively.

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Related developments

On 11 October 2010, Rutaganda died in prison in Benin.

See ICTR, 'Death of Convict Georges Rutaganda in Benin', ICTR Press Release, 12 October 2010; RNW, 'Former Rwanda Mmilitia Chief Dies in Benin', 13 October 2010; and RFI, 'L’Ancien Chef Milicien Rwandais Georges Rutaganda Eest Décédé au Bénin', 13 October 2010.

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Legally relevant facts

In 1991, Rutaganda joined the Mouvement Républicain National pour le Développement et la Démocratie (MRND) political party and was subsequently appointed the Second Vice President of its youth wing, the Interahamwe (paras. 29-30).

Following the death of Rwandan President Habyarimana on 6 April 1994, violence flared up between the Hutu and the Tutsi in Rwanda. Rutaganda was involved in the perpetration of such violence against the Tutsi in a number of ways. He distributed weapons, including firearms and machetes, to the Interahamwe which were then used in killings (paras. 196-199). Some time in April 1994, Rutaganda ordered men under his control to take 14 detainees to a deep hole near the Amgar garage to be killed (para. 260).

On or about 11 April 1994, members of the Interahamwe gathered outside the ETO, a technical college that had been guarded by members of the UN peacekeeping force and which housed thousands of Tutsi refugees. When UN troops had left the compound, Interahamwe and Presidential Guard members entered and attacked the compound throwing grenades, firing guns and killing with machetes and clubs. A large number of Tutsis were killed (para. 298). A group of approximately 4000 refugees who had survived or escaped were forcibly lead to Nyanza by the Interahamwe where, following a selection of Hutus from Tutsi, the Tutsi were killed (paras. 300-301).

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Core legal questions

  • Can the requisite genocidal intent be inferred from the general context of the perpetration of acts by others, rather than the conduct of the Accused himself?
  • What is the definition of the nexus requirement that is required to establish a connection between a given crime and an armed conflict?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 2(2) and (3), 3, 4(a) and 6(1) of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

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Court's holding and analysis

The necessary intent for the crime of genocide is the intent to accomplish certain specific types of destruction against a targeted group. The perpetrator must therefore intend to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such by the means provided for in Article 2 of the Tribunal’s Statute (para. 524). For an accused to be convicted of genocide, it must be established that the accused personally possessed the specific intent to commit genocide at the time he did so. Absent an explicit, direct manifestation of this intent, intent can be inferred from relevant factors and circumstances (para. 525). Relevant factors and circumstances include the general context and the perpetration of other acts systematically directed against a given group. Such an approach does not imply that the guilt of an accused may be inferred only from his affiliation with “a guilty organisation” (para. 528).

The Trial Chamber in the present instance inferred Rutaganda’s genocidal intent from, inter alia, his specific acts, the systematic selection of victim’s and Rutaganda’s position of authority. The ground of appeal is dismissed (paras. 529-531).

Endorsing the standard espoused at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Appeals Chamber held that a given offence must be “closely related” to the armed conflict in order to establish liability for war crimes (para. 569). The nexus requirement is not satisfied merely by asserting that the crime occurred at the same time as an armed conflict and/or in any circumstances created in part by the armed conflict. Determining whether the required nexus exists will require consideration of a number of factors, and particular care should be taken when the Accused is a non-combatant (para. 570).

As a result of the afore-mentioned clarifications, the Appeals Chamber entered new convictions for murder as a war crime (paras. 577, 579-581, 584).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Related cases

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Additional materials

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