(from top left to right) Protais Zigiranyirazo (‘Z’), Prosper Mugiraneza, Tharcisse Muvunyi, François Xavier Nzuwonemeye, Alphonse Nteziryayo, Anatole Nsengiyumva, Innocent Sagahutu, André Ntagerura
Update: 4 January 2023
The former detainees have hit the UN cash jackpot again. UN judge JOSEPH E. CHIONDO MASANCHE from Tanzania ruled that the UN should give the 7 former ICTR detainees another $10,000 each (their third such windfall payment). This on top of free healthcare and free accommodation not to mention free legal fees for some and vast costs to the UN in terms of administration to try to get some country interested enough to allow them residence. All these hundreds of thousands of pounds of UN taxpayers money are deemed to be part of its ‘duty of care’. This time last year the same judge Chiondo Masanche had handed out $10,000 to them. It has become a yearly New Year present, albeit one the UN press department does not wish to speak about. Should the ‘butcher of Gisenyi’, Anatole Nsengiyumva be treated to yet more largesse from the UN given his horrific background? The UN says yes, yes and yes. It seems the extensive families of the men, many living and working in France, Belgium and other western countries are themselves totally out of funds and have not a spare cent available to help their poor misunderstood relatives in Niger.
Does it assist the fulfilment of the ICTR’s legacy of ‘bringing justice to the victims of the Genocide and, in the process, deterring others from committing similar atrocities in the future?’ What message does it send out to victims and survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi and other terrible crimes? While the impressively expensive team of the lawyers representing the seven men – John Philpott, Peter Robinson, Philippe Larochelle, Iain Edwards, Kate Gibson, Allison Turner and Jean Flamme – can delight in this success for the clients, the decision marks a(nother) dark day for the UN ICTR/MICT.
Update: December 2023
The UN cash handout saga continues. All year the seven former ICTR detainees in Niger have bemoaned their fate – being ‘stuck’ in a large house in Niamey while efforts to relocate them to a third ‘safe’ state by the Registrar at the UN Mechanism continue. Now Anatole Nsengiyumva has written to the Mechanism President to complain that the efforts in this regard are not working, but demanding another $10,000 payout for him and the other six. He rages (or at least his lawyer Allison Turner does on his behalf) at the Mechanism and its efforts. Now, unsurprisingly the others in the ‘safe house’ have jumped on the UN cash payout bandwagon, joining Nsengiyumva’s efforts for free cash.
One note of UN gossip worth mentioning – it seems the UN Mechanism Registrar had signed off on the $10,000 to be given out to Nsengiyumva – only for the Mechanism President Judge Santana to reprimand him for doing so without a judge giving the matter proper consideration and giving a judgement on the issue. A ruling on the ‘lump sum’ request is now expected in the New Year. It’s almost certain though if the past is anything to go by, that the former ICTR detainees can look forward to plenty more free UN cash – and that this will now become a yearly Christmas tradition like Santa or carol singing.
Spare a thought for Nsengiyumva’s victims in Gisenyi and North West Rwanda. Their Christmas tradition is pain and poverty – and the UN does not give a damn – or a dollar – to help them. The victims do not have highly paid lawyers such as AllisonTurner, Iain Edwards, Peter Robinson, Kate Gibson, Philippe Larochelle, Jean Flamme and John Philpott. No doubt they will also enjoy a merry Christmas along with their Niamey clients.
In Autumn 2022, 8 former ICTR detainees living in Niger in a UN-paid for residence, demanded the UN Mechanism pay them another $10,000 each as part of what they termed its ‘duty of care’ to them as they waited for relocation to other countries – mostly thought to be France and Belgium – to enjoy their pleasant retirements. The eight former accused included individuals convicted of genocide who had been released early from prison sentences or had been acquitted on appeal by controversial judge Theodore Meron. In January 2023 the UN ruled in their favour and dished out another $10,000 to the men who had already received $10,000 each when they had arrived in Niamey in December 2021.This comes on top of the UN paying for their housing and also taking over their medical expenses after the Red Cross noted it could no longer do so. And they’re hugely expensive legal bills. Previously the detainees had been staying in a delightful UN residence in Arusha, Tanzania, where all their needs from laundry to medical bills, transport to housing were taken care of at a rate of $1,200 per month each – not counting legal bills.
The question remains: If the UN feels it has a duty of care to men like Anatole Nsengiyumva, the ‘butcher of Gisenyi,’ where is its duty of care to survivors? Don’t the victims, just because they are without expensive UN-paid lawyers to make demands on their behalf – also deserve support? And who can blame France, the UK and Belgium from not wanting these men on their soil – they each have quite enough war criminals and genocidaires already living happily, justice-free, off the state budget.
In an agreement between the UN Mechanism (IRMCT) and the government of Niger in November 2021 the eight former detainees who had been housed in handsome UN accommodation in Arusha, Tanzania for many years at great expense, should be flown to Niamey, the capital of Niger. Here they were also put up in UN-paid for accommodation while they continued their efforts to get France, Belgium or another third country to give them visas – something European countries had steadfastly denied citing fears that their presence would not be conducive to the public good.
The 8 men arrived in Niger on 6 December 2021 and were immediately awarded $10,000 each from UN funds for living expenses while they worked on obtaining visas to a new country. However, three weeks later, on 23 December, the men found themselves placed under house arrest by Niger’s government and had their identity documents seized. They were issued with an expulsion order for diplomatic reasons, though this was not implemented and they remained in the UN-paid accommodation. Months of political wrangling ensued. On 24 February, Tanzania told the Mechanism’s Registrar, who is charged with the highly contentious problem of finding a country or countries that will take the men, that it would not allow them back onto its soil. The Registrar made formal approaches to 33 countries – including Finland, Norway and Trinidad and Tobago – as well as many informal approaches to other countries – but so far no country has yet shown any willingness to take any, some, or all of them. Niger meanwhile agreed they can say put in the residence in Niamey, but noted they would not get their identity documents back or have freedom of movement. The men are, of course, able to return to Rwanda which has said they can return – where they have citizenship – but unsurprisingly given their personal histories, they have refused point blank to envisage this.
Demand for more UN funding
On 2 May 2022, the eight men and their high-powered legal teams wrote to the Mechanism to bewail their plight in Niger, and demand the UN step in to give them the standard of living they had enjoyed in Arusha. Noting that prices were, according to them, four times higher in Niger, ‘our upkeep would require a monthly allowance of $350 x 4 = $1400, it means four times the monthly allowance we were given in Arusha. This amount would cover purchasing physical assets like utensils, the general maintenance and repair issues regarding the house, food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, drinking water and cooking gas, household staff, bedding, clothing, laundry, household items and stationary, mail services and mobile phone services.’ They expected the monthly allowance of $1400 would ‘neither include healthcare and relocation expenses and we request that these aspects also continue to be directly handled by the Mechanism.’ In essence, all their living costs should continue to be paid for by UN taxpayers.
On 29 August 2022, lawyers for two of the men, Prosper Mugiraneza and François Xavier Nzuwonemeye wrote to the President of the Mechanism to reiterate this request, demanding the UN pay them a further $10,000 each ‘subsistence funding’, saying that their clients had spent all their former funds and that the UN still had a duty of care to them. The other six detainees followed suit soon after with their own requests for extra UN funds. They noted that since the UN had a financial duty of care to them when they were in Arusha – giving them a living allowance, free housing, free UN medical care, household staff, etc – this should also be available now they were in Niger.
On 12 January after numerous pleas by their legal teams, a single judge at the Mechanism ruled in favour of paying out a further $10,000 to each of the former ICTR detainees. The UN continues to pay for the residential lease on their accommodation.
On 3 March 2023, the Mechanism published a heavily redacted public account of the history of its past and present efforts to persuade a third country to take the eight men. The question now remains as to whether the Mechanism will continue to fund these men and pay out tens of thousands of dollars to each of them annually in the future – in effect treating them as UN employees.
One of the eight, Tharcisse Muvunyi, died on 11 June. However the battle by the remaining seven former detainees continues – to make sure all their bills are paid by the UN while they are in Niger, and to get the UN to lean on third party states to give them visas. France and Belgium, in particular, seem highly reluctant.
In July, the story took a new twist when new court documents from an ICTY case, [Sreten Lukic], seemed to offer a way for the men to get transferred to the Netherlands. Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwomeye requested the President of the Mechanism to order his immediate transfer from ‘unlawful detention’ in Niger to the Netherlands. Others of the 7 followed. Where in the Netherlands Nzuwomeye and the others want to go is unclear!
Sadly, the ‘duty of care’ the UN continues to display to these individuals – some of whom were found guilty of the most horrific crimes – is unmatched by any ‘duty of care’ to survivors of the genocide, many of whom continue to suffer from abject poverty, mental and physical health issues and a sense that yet again the international community has failed them. They have no $10,000 handout – nor free private medical care, free housing, free air-conditioning and free household staff to make their meals and do their cleaning.
It’s another sad reminder – if any more was really needed – of the deeply flawed justice served up by the International Community towards the real victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The 8 (now 7) former ICTR detainees in Niger:
‘Monsieur Z’ in his 1980s heyday
Protais Zigiranyirazo (‘Z’): Brother-in-law of President Habyarimana and a hugely powerful figure in Rwanda. Found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity at his trial in 2005 but acquitted and released in 2009 by the ICTR appeal bench presided over by Judge Theodore Meron.
Nsengiyumva: the ‘butcher of Gisenyi.’
Anatole Nsengiyumva: Colonel and commander of the Gisenyi operational sector. Found guilty of genocide, extermination and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment at his trial in 2008. Sentence downgraded to 15 years on appeal before Judge Theodore Meron’s appeal chamber in 2011, which ordered his immediate release for time served.
François Xavier Nzuwonemeye. credit: ICTR
François Xavier Nzuwonemeye: Major in charge of the elite Reconnaissance Battalion (RECCE) in April 1994. Found guilty and sentenced to 20 years for crimes against humanity at his trial in 2011; a decision overturned on appeal in 2014 by the appeal bench presided over by Judge Theodore Meron.
Innocent Sagahutu. Credit: ICTR
Innocent Sagahutu: A Captain in the Reconnaissance Battalion (RECCE). Found guilty and sentenced to 20 years for crimes against humanity at his trial in 2011; a decision in part reversed on appeal in 2014 by the appeal bench presided over by Judge Theodore Meron, with the sentence downgraded to 15 years. He was immediately released for time already served.
Alphonse Nteziryayo credit: ICTR
Alphonse Nteziryayo: A Colonel in the gendarmerie who was appointed Prefect of Butare in June 1994. Found guilty of direct and public incitement to genocide at his trial and sentenced to 30 years in 2011; This was downgraded to 25 years on appeal in 2015 and he was granted early release by Judge Theodore Meron in 2016.
Prosper Mugiraneza: credit ICTR
Prosper Mugiraneza: Minister of Trade and industry. Sentenced to 30 years at his trial in 2011 for conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement of genocide. In 2013 the appeal chamber of Judge Theodore Meron reversed the trial verdict and acquitted the accused, ordering his immediate release.
André Ntagerura credit: ICTR
André Ntagerura: former minister of Transport and Communication in the interim regime of 1994. He was found not guilty of all charges at his trial in 2004.
Tharcisse Muvunyi: Colonel and commander of a military school. Sentenced to 25 years for genocide and crimes against humanity in 2006. This sentence was set aside and a new trial in 2010 found him guilty of direct and public incitement to genocide and sentenced him to 15 years, upheld on appeal (Judge Theodore Meron dissenting). He was, in any case, granted early release in 2012. Muvenyi died in May 2023