Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) issues first appeal decision upholding a decision of the ICTR to transfer the case of Phénéas Munyarugarama to Rwanda


In its first decision, the Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, presided over by the President of the Mechanism, Judge Theodor Meron, upheld a decision by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to transfer the case of Phénéas Munyarugarama to the Republic of Rwanda for trial proceedings. 

Established by the Security Council of the United Nations, the Mechanism is mandated to carry out a number of essential functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the ICTR after the completion of their respective mandates. The Mechanism assumed authority to hear certain appeals against ICTR decisions on 1 July 2012.  

Mr. Munyarugarama, a former military commander in the Rwandan army, was charged before the ICTR with genocide, complicity in genocide, and direct and public incitement to commit genocide as well as multiple counts of crimes against humanity. He is at large. 

On appeal before the Mechanism, legal counsel assigned to represent Mr. Munyarugarama’s interests challenged the ICTR decision to transfer the case to Rwanda, arguing that members of the Rwandan judiciary lacked the impartiality necessary to try genocide cases.

The Appeals Chamber of the Mechanism found no error in the conclusion of the ICTR that members of the Rwandan judiciary were impartial. The Appeals Chamber for the Mechanism highlighted that, in its decision, the ICTR reviewed Rwanda’s legal framework and evidence demonstrating professionalism, independence, and impartiality of the Rwandan judiciary and found that counsel for Mr. Munyarugarama had failed to rebut the presumption of impartiality.

In reaching its decision, the Appeals Chamber stated that the Mechanism’s Statute and Rules of Procedure and Evidence reflect normative continuity with those of the ICTY and ICTR. According to the Appeals Chamber, “[t]hese parallels are not simply a matter of convenience or efficiency but serve to uphold principles of due process and fundamental fairness, which are the cornerstones of international justice.”