Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Appeals Chamber Orders a Retrial

In Prosecutor v. Muvunyi, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has ordered a retrial: http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=5ee4f5773adc93cbab1eab3e9fa335ca869775f79bb5ce6a (note that the judgment is not yet available on the website of the tribunal). It is, to my knowledge, the first time a retrial has ever been ordered in the practice of the ad hoc tribunals. The Appeals Chamber reversed the conviction of Muvunyi on several counts. With respect to a count of inciting genocide, however, the Appeals Chamber said that the Trial Chamber had not given adequate reasons, making it impossible for the Appeals Chamber to assess the validity of its reasoning. According to the Appeals Chamber: ‘The Appeals Chamber stresses that an order for retrial is an exceptional measure to which resort must necessarily be limited. In the present situation, the Appeals Chamber is well aware that Muvunyi has already spent over eight years in the Tribunal’s custody. At the same time, the alleged offence is of the utmost gravity and interests of justice would not be well served if retrial were not ordered to allow the trier of fact the opportunity to fully assess the entirety of the relevant evidence and provide a reasoned opinion.’ (para. 148) Rule 118(C) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence states: ‘In appropriate circumstances the Appeals Chamber may order that the accused be retried before the Trial Chamber.’
Muvunyi was initially sentence to twenty-five years' imprisonment. But the retrial is only ordered for one of several counts, and he is acquitted of everything else. By the time retrial and appeal are finished, he will probably have spent more than ten years in pre-trial detention. It seems debatable that ordering a retrial is really in the interests of justice, especially considering the completion strategy and the need for the Tribunal to finish its work soon.

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