Alphonse Nteziryayo was born in the commune of Kibayi in the Butare prefecture of Rwanda. He was Commander of the military police and Director of Civil Defence for the Butare prefecture. In this capacity he exercised authority over the Interahamwe militiamen (an extremist Hutu militia) and certain civilians in the prefecture. On 17 June 1994, he was appointed Préfet of Butare, a position he took over from Sylvain Nsabimana. He held this position until the beginning of July 1994, up until which date he fled Rwanda. In this capacity, he was the representative of the executive power at the prefecture level. He exercised his authority over his subordinates as well as over the different mayors of the prefecture, and was in a position to requisition the army and the national gendarmerie.
From the end of 1990 until July 1994, Nteziryayo was said to have adhered to, and participated in the detailed development of a plan aimed at exterminating the Tutsis. Amongst other elements, this plan included recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the training of and distribution of arms to militias as well as the drafting of lists of people to be eliminated. In the accomplishment of this plan, he was accused of having planned, ordered and participated in the massacres. From April to July 1994, Nteziryayo was said to have publicly incited the population to exterminate the Tutsi population.
Between March and June 1994, Nteziryayo together with Joseph Kanyabashi (Mayor of Ngoma) allegedly helped and facilitated the military training of certain civilians in the communes of Ngoma and Nyakizu. Nteziryayo was also said to have incited the local population to massacre Tutsis in the Butare prefecture.
Before and during the 1994 killings in Butare, Nteziryayo reportedly distributed weapons to the militiamen and to certain civilians with the aim of exterminating the Tutsi population and the moderate Hutus.
In May and June 1994, Nteziryayo allegedly ordered the Interahamwe to search for Tutsis and to kill them.
Towards the middle of June 1994, Nteziryayo and Arsène Shalom Ntahobali (leader of a militia group) were both said to have tried to prevent the evacuation from Butare of around 300 orphans and the adults accompanying them. Overriding the opposition of the employees of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the local authorities, they allegedly selected about 40 adults who were forced to remain in Rwanda.
In early July, in the face of the advancing FPR (Front Patriotique Rwandais, an opposition group consisting mainly of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kagame), Nteziryayo fled Rwanda. On 24 April 1998, he was arrested in Burkina Faso.
Alphonse Nteziryayo was arrested at the request of the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR on 24 April 1998 in Burkina Faso. Prior to this, he had already been arrested by the judicial authorities of Burkina Faso, but had subsequently been released. On 21 May 1998, he was transferred to the United Nations prison quarters in Arusha, Tanzania.
Nteziryayo was accused of “conspiracy to commit genocide”, “genocide”, in addition to “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”, “murder as a crime against humanity”, “extermination as a crime against humanity”, “persecution on political, racial or religious grounds as a crime against humanity”, “inhumane acts as a crime against humanity” and war crimes. He pleaded not guilty with regard to all these charges.
On 6 October 1999, the ICTR-on request of the Chief Prosecutor- ordered a combined trial for Nteziryayo and five other persons accused of crimes committed in the Butare prefecture of Rwanda in 1994. The five co-accused are: Pauline Nyiramasuhuko(Minister for the Family and Woman’s Development) and her son, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali (leader of a militia group), Sylvain Nsabimana (former Préfet of Butare), Joseph Kanyabashi (Mayor of Ngoma) and Elie Ndayambaje (Mayor of Muganza).
On 6 October 1999, the ICTR, on request of the Chief Prosecutor, ordered a combined trial for Nteziryayo and five other persons accused of crimes committed in the Butare prefecture of Rwanda in 1994. The five co-accused are: Pauline Nyiramasuhuko (Minister for the Family and Woman’s Development) and her son, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali (leader of a militia group), Sylvain Nsabimana (former Préfet of Butare), Joseph Kanyabashi (Mayor of Ngoma) and Elie Ndayambaje (Mayor of Muganza).
The trial, entitled “the collective trial of the Butare group” or “Butare Six”, commenced on 12 June 2001 before the Second Trial Chamber of the ICTR.
The closing arguments began on 20 April 2009. The longest and the largest trial before the ICTR ended on 1 May 2009 after parties concluded their closing arguments.
The judgment was rendered on 24 June 2011, and Nteziryayo was sentenced to 30 years in prison for direct and public incitement to commit genocide.
The Appeals Chamber delivered its judgment on 14 December 2015, reducing Nteziryayo’s sentence to 25 years of imprisonment. The Appeals Chamber ruled that his right to be tried without undue delay had been violated. It further dismissed Nteziryayo’s appeal in all other respects.
The « Butare Six » trial is the longest and also the most costly trial in the history of international criminal justice. The proceedings were particularly lengthy not least because of difficulties with certain witnesses and the extreme length of examinations. Several expert witnesses spent a month on the stand. During the Defence case, conflicts of interest between the accused added to the lengthiness of the proceedings.
Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)
In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.
The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.
Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.
THE GACACA COURTS
In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.
These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.
According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagameannounced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.