Charles Bandora

08.06.2015 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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facts

Charles Bandora was born in Mudasomwa (now Southern Province) in Rwanda in 1953. Until his arrest he operated businesses in Malawi, including one at Mugasa House, Devil Street. During 1994 he was also a high-ranking member of National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) party in Bugesera, Rwanda.

Bandora is accused of having facilitated the Interahamwe in the mass killings of Tutsis in 1994 by training and arming militiamen and personally supervising massacres in the Bugesera region. The militiamen he trained are alleged to have travelled in bands with machetes and small arms, in open trucks, killing people with extreme efficiency (10,000 people each day, 7 people each minute).

In particular, Bandora is accused of having ordered the killing of 400 Tutsis who had sought refuge at Ruhuha church between 7-13 April 1994. Specifically, Bandora is accused of the killing of Ezekiel Mugenzi, looting his property and looting that of Gratien Murangira.

Charles Bandora was arrested in Malawi (reports differ as to the date: 7 or 20 January 2010) by the Criminal Intelligence Department for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide.

legal procedure

Charles Bandora was arrested in Malawi (reports differ as to the date: 7 or 20 January 2010) by the Criminal Intelligence Department for his alleged role in the Rwandan genocide.

He was arrested three weeks after a visit to Malawi by Rwanda’s chief prosecutor Martin Ngoga. In November 2009, Ngoga blamed Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia for “doing nothing” to arrest Rwandan fugitives in their countries. Other Rwandan fugitives are believed to be in Malawi. However, Bandora was released in unclear circumstances, believed to involve an approach to the Malawian authorities by Zimbabwean officials. Bandora was reported to have subsequently gone to Zimbabwe.

In May 2010, Bandora was arrested at Zavantem airport as he tried to enter Belgium but then released. It is unclear on what grounds Bandora was released by Belgium, where Bandora appears to have attempted to claim asylum. Bandora is reported to have children living in Belgium. The Norwegian press has reported that Bandora was said by Belgium that he had to seek asylum in Norway and not in Belgium, because of the Norwegian Schengen stamp in the Malawian passport on which he was travelling and/or because he had travelled through Norway on his way to Belgium, pursuant to the European Directive on the procedure to grant refugee status. The Rwandan prosecution spokesman is reported to have requested the Belgian authorities to extradite Bandora to Rwanda. From current press reports it appears that Belgium handled Bandora as an asylum case only and did not examine the charges as per the Interpol warrant.

Bandora was arrested in Norway at the airport on 9 June 2010 on suspicion of travelling under a fake passport. Reports differ as to it being Malian or Malawian, but on the facts it appears more likely that it was Malawian. Bandora is reported to have sought asylum in Norway. Bandora denies the charges and claims he was the victim of persecution in Rwanda in 1994. He was scheduled to appear in court on 10 June 2010 in the context of the Interpol warrant and a Rwandan extradition request. Norway is currently investigating his identity with Bandora on 4 weeks’ remand.

On 11 July 2011 the Oslo Tribunal accepted the request for extradition forwarded by Rwandan Authorities against Bandora. He appealed such decision, claiming that he would not benefit from a fair trial in Rwanda, and asking to be instead tried in Norway or in another European country. On 22 November 2011 the Norwegian Supreme Court dismissed Bandora’s appeal.

Bandora appealed this decision before the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR rejected his appeal on March 2013.

On 10 March 2013, Bandora was extradited from Norway to Rwanda. He is the first genocide fugitive to be extradited to Rwanda.

The trial hearings began on 22 September 2014 in Kigali.

Bandora is charged with genocide, extermination, conspiracy to commit killing, formation of a criminal organisation and murder as a crime against humanity.

According to the prosecution, Bandora was one of the top local leaders of the former presidential party MRND, he was so influential in the former Ngenda commune that the mayor, soldiers and police as well as the Interahamwe militia obeyed his orders.

Bandora pleaded not guilty. His defence lawyers argue that the prosecution crafted six charges out of one allegation, since all evidence presented to the Court points only to Genocide.

Bandora was sentenced by the High Court of Kigali, Rwanda, on 15 May 2015 to 30 years of imprisonment for involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The court held that Bandora was guilty of conspiracy, genocide and murders as crimes against humanity.

The court highlighted that the prosecution did not manage to prove all charges because some contradictions still subsisted in the testimonies gathered before the court.

The court also observed that there was no evidence proving that Bandora had played a role in the massacre of the genocide victims in the Ruhuha parish.

The court indicated that Bandora’s sentence was reduced because he cooperated during the proceedings.

When the verdict was announced, Bandora declared that he would appeal his sentencing.

spotlight

Charles Bandora is the first genocide suspect extradited to Rwanda from a European country.

context

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.