Rwanda protests Early Release of Genocide Convict Simba

The Government of Rwanda has condemned the early release of genocide convict Aloys Simba by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT), saying that the decision by its president Judge Theodor Meron, cemented his legacy of undermining international criminal justice.

Simba, incarcerated in Benin, was serving a 20-year sentence.

His early release by Meron is seen in Kigali as one of the latter’s last acts before leaving office on Friday after eight years.

Meron released Simba last week “in secret” and with an utter lack of transparency, Rwanda Ministry of justice said Thursday in a statement.

It said during his tenure as MICT President, Judge Meron consistently reversed convictions, considerably reduced sentences on appeal, and released early genocidaires responsible for the worst massacres with no regard for the victims and survivors.

“Judge Meron is aware of Simba’s responsibility for the massacre of more than 40,000 Tutsi children, women and men at Murambi Technical School,” reads the statement, which was signed by the Minister of Justice and Attorney, Johnston Busingye

“Likewise, he knows that at Kaduha Parish, Simba put traditional weapons, guns and grenades into the hands of mass murderers and ordered them to ‘get rid of this filth’ before they converted what should have been a place of refuge into a human slaughterhouse.”

Simba was convicted by the defunct International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) of Genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.

The government statement adds: “He should have served his entire prison term. When considering a request for early release, as a matter of international law, the Mechanism must take into account the gravity of the offense, the interests of the victim survivors, the prisoner’s demonstration of repentance and rehabilitation, and his cooperation with the prosecution”.

“He has shown no remorse. He has refused to cooperate with authorities. And, in its submission to the Mechanism, Rwanda provided a detailed opinion from an expert in the trauma of genocide victims, who personally interviewed some survivors and reviewed statements from others”.

The expert described how Simba’s release would cause untold trauma for survivors of Kaduha Parish and the Murambi Technical School.

“But Judge Meron somehow overlooked all of this to offer Simba leniency. Compounding this injustice, Judge Meron released Simba last week with an utter lack of transparency”.

Egide Mutabazi, 42, a survivor who lost his father and other family members in killings that took place between April and May 1994, in a different place, in Rusizi District (former Cyimbogo Commune) said it is heart-breaking to set free a genocide convict who has shown no remorse.

“In my opinion, Judge Theodor Meron endorses Simba’s crimes. He should not be called a judge because he is not impartial,” Mutabazi said.

Jean-Damascène Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), called Meron’s move a cruel decision that negates the crime of Genocide committed against the Tutsi and ignoring the pain of survivors.

“Ever since he came to the ICTR/MICT, he was known to side with the planners and masterminds of the Genocide as he lessened their sentences and acquitted them. In short, there are very few instances where this judge made decisions in the interest of justice”.

Unchecked, underhanded unilateralism

Mid last year, Tim Gallimore, former Spokesperson for the ICTR Prosecutor, now a Genocide researcher and communications consultant, wrote that such early releases of Genocide convicts can only be called a gross miscarriage of justice.

Last August, Ibuka, the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors associations, condemned Meron’s announcement that he would not consider survivors’ opinions while processing applications for early release of Genocide convicts by the UN-MICT.

The latest government statement adds that Meron has yet to make his order public, and he shielded it for days from the rest of the Mechanism.

“Rwanda was also kept in the dark. Such unchecked, underhanded unilateralism has no place in the administration of international law,” Busingye wrote.

Rwanda is, among others, urging the next MICT President to take more seriously the law and the facts, when reviewing applications for early release.

Kigali also urges the next President to operate in an open and transparent manner, so that the Government of Rwanda and others with an interest in the cases pending before the MICT have notice and a reasonable opportunity to respond to pleadings and orders.

A member of the “Comrades of the Fifth of July’ who participated in a coup that brought former president Juvenal Habyarimana to power in 1973, Simba also served as a Member of Parliament from 1989 to 1993.

He was arrested in Senegal on November 27, 2001, and his trial commenced on August 30, 2004.

During the Genocide, Simba converted what should have been places of refuge into human slaughterhouses when he orchestrated brutal massacres in order to advance the genocidal destruction of an entire ethnic group.

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