Jean Mpambara was born in 1954 in the commune of Rukara in Rwanda. At the time of the alleged events, he was Mayor of this Commune. In this position he had authority over the regional civil servants, as well as over the police force of the Commune, the gendarmerie and the Interahamwe militia.
Between 6 and 16 April 1994, Jean Mpambara is accused of having planned, directed and facilitated attacks against Tutsi civilians and of having distributed weapons which were used in the course of these attacks. In particular, he is said to have advised those Tutsis who were being pursued to take refuge in the parish of Rukura, and then subsequently to have given the order to the gendarmes and the militia to kill them. Around 5000 people had taken refuge in Rukura.
The former Mayor is also believed to have committed massacres in public buildings such as the Administration Office for the district and the hospital in Gahini.
Jean Mpambara was arrested on 21 June 2001 in a refugee camp in Tanzania. On the 23 June 2001, he was transferred to the prison quarters of the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) in Arusha.
Jean Mpambara was arrested on 21 June 2001 in a refugee camp in Tanzania. On the 23 June 2001, he was transferred to the prison quarters of the ICTR in Arusha.
On 23 July 2001, he was charged with one sole count of indictment for genocide (Art. 2 § 3 lit. a ICTR Statute).
On 8 August 2001, at his first court appearance before the First Trial Chamber of the ICTR, he pleaded not guilty.
The indictment was amended in November 2004, to include one count of complicity in genocide (Art. 2 § 3 lit. e ICTR Statute) and one count of extermination, as a crime against humanity (Art. 3 lit. b ICTR Statute).
The trial opened on 19 September 2005.
On 12 September 2006, the ICTR First Trial Chamber declared Jean Mpambara not guilty of the charge of genocide. He left Arusha for Mayotte, an French island in the Indian Ocean, where his familiy lives.
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.