Augustin Bizimana was born in 1954 in Gituza commune, Byumba prefecture, Rwanda.
During the events in question, Bizimana held the office of Minister of Defence in the Interim Government. Prior to that, he held the same position in the third multi-party government formed on 18 July, 1993.
In this capacity, he was constantly informed of the socio-political situation in the country. He was responsible for controlling the possession of weapons and explosives by the civilian population. Furthermore Bizimana exercised authority over the entire Rwandan Armed Forces.
From late 1990 until July 1994, Bizimana was said to have participated in a plan with the intent to exterminate the civilian Tutsi population. The components of this plan, amongst other things, consisted of recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the training of and distribution of weapons to militiamen as well as the preparation of lists of people to be eliminated. In the preparation of this plan he was reported to have organized, ordered and participated in the massacres.
From 1992 on, in order to facilitate the massacres, agents of the Intelligence Bureau (G-2) of the Rwandan Army established lists of Tutsi and moderate Hutu to be eliminated. During the time that Augustin Bizimana was Minister of Defence, these lists were regularly updated, according to the prosecution.
According to the indictment, from July 1993 to July 1994, Augustin Bizimana encouraged and facilitated the acquisition of weapons for militants of the MRND (National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development – the Presidential Party). On 7 January 1994, he participated in a meeting at the headquarters of the MRND, which was in opposition to the disarmament programme. On 25 May 1994, the Interim Government, of which Bizimana was a member, adopted a civilian self-defence programme. This programme was aimed, on the one hand, at legalising the distribution of arms to the militiamen and, on the other, at legitimising the massacres of the civilian population.
The indictment further stated that, between 9 April and 14 July 1994, several meetings of the Council of Ministers were held, during which directives and instructions were given to the prefects aimed at inciting, encouraging and assisting them to carry out the killings. In order to ensure that these orders were carried out, a Minister was assigned responsibility in each prefecture, for what was called “pacification”.
Between 11 April and 14 July 1994, Bizimana was said to have gone, in an official capacity, either alone or with others, to several prefectures with a view to supervising the implementation of the instructions handed down by the Government. During his many trips throughout the country, Bizimana would have crossed many roadblocks, around which many corpses were scattered. Moreover, Bizimana was reported to have been present at one roadblock where a member of his escort executed two Tutsi, without his intervening to prevent the crime being committed.
In addition, Bizimana was said to have known about the massacres perpetrated against the Tutsi personnel of the Kigali Hospital Centre. He would also have been informed of the situation at the school for nurses, where, on several occasions between April and June 1994, the military and the Interahamwe militiamen (an extreme Hutu militia force) forcibly abducted and raped students and Tutsi refugees.
Despite being aware that massacres were being committed against the civilian population, Augustin Bizimana, in his capacity as Minister of Defence with authority over the entire Rwandan Army, took no measures whatsoever to put a stop to them. On the contrary, the prosecutor concluded that Bizimana had refused to intervene to control the population so long as a cease fire agreement had not been ordered.
Augustin Bizimana has so far escaped arrest, after fleeing Rwanda in 1994 and is being sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)
Augustin Bizimana has so far escaped arrest and is being sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)
By an amended indictment dated 21 November 2001, Bizimana was charged on eleven Counts:
1. Conspiracy to commit genocide (Art. 2 § 3 ICTR Statute)
2. Genocide (Art. 2 § 3 ICTR Statute) or in the alternative of
3. Complicity in Genocide (Art. 2 § 3 ICTR Statute)
4. Direct and public incitement to commit genocide (Art. 2 § ICTR Statute)
5. Murder as a crime against humanity (Art. 3 ICTR Statute)
6. Extermination as a crime against humanity (Art. 3 ICTR Statute)
7. Rape as a crime against humanity (Art. 3 ICTR Statute)
8. Persecution on political, racial and religious grounds as a crime against humanity (Art. 3 ICTR Statute)
9. Other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity (Art. 3 ICTR Statute)
10. Serious outrages upon life, health and physical and mental well-being of persons, in particular for murder, as well as cruel treatment such as torture, mutilation, or all other forms of corporal punishment as grave violations of Article 3, Common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II. (Art. 4 ICTR Statute)
11. Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, forced prostitution and all other outrages on decency as serious violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II (Art. 4 ICTR Statute).
Augustin Bizimana fled Rwanda in July 1994. He is thought to have taken refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Augustin Bizimana was initially indicted with 6 other persons. On 8 October 2003, in view of the fact that he had still not been arrested, the Third Trial Chamber of the ICTR, on request of the Chief Prosecutor, ordered the severance of the Bizimana case from that of his Co-defendants.
In June 2012, special deposition hearings were conducted in order to preserve evidence for future use when Bizimana would be arrested.
On 1 August 2012, the case of Bizimana was transferred to the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRM) created by the UN in December 2010 to assume some functions of the ICTR and ICTY after the end of their mandate including tracking, arresting and judging the 9 fugitives still wanted by the ICTR.
Augustin Bizimana had still not been arrested.
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 Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.