WITH the passage of time, even the most gruesome atrocities committed by man tend to lose their acuity and accuracy and ultimately recede into oblivion. We, however, owe a ton of gratitude to historians and scholars, who, by means of painstaking documentation, ensure that we never forget our despicable past, if only to ensure that obnoxious history does not repeat itself. It is for this reason that one must appreciate the efforts of Segun Jegede, Esq., a former prosecutor with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (“ICTR”) in documenting for eternity, the legal and historical records of the Rwandan Genocide.
Mr. Jegede’s book is divided into nine chapters. Chapter I contains a historical excursion into the Rwandan crisis of 1994 which triggered the emergence of the ICTR. The chapter reveals the surprising fact that the Tutsis and the Hutus were originally homogeneous. The divisive roles played by the German (and later) Belgian colonialists in stoking the embers of hatred between the two “ethnic” groups as well as the startling revelation that approximately 800,000 persons, mostly Tutsis, were consumed by the pogrom, are showcased in the chapter.
Chapter II x-rays the legal signification of “genocide” as contained in the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The chapter explains the activist role of the Trial Chamber of the ICTR in expanding the categories of protected groups under the Genocide Convention. In the chapter, the elements and facets of genocide are lucidly explained. A unique point about genocide, according to the author, is the fact that out of the three major crimes prohibited by the statute of the ICTR, genocide is the only one in respect of which conspiracy to commit it, is an offence in itself.
In Chapter III, the author explores the definition, provenance, categories and condiments of “crimes against humanity”. The chapter also reviews some of the cases tried by the Trial Chamber of the ICTY under Article 3 of the statute of the ICTR which defines acts constituting crimes against humanity.
In Chapter IV, Mr. Jegede examines the origins, scope and elements of “war crimes” and the evolution of international humanitarian law. The author takes the reader on an excursion into the domain of international armed conflicts and non-international armed conflicts and reviews the relevant cases tried by the Trial Chamber of the ICTR in respect of both. In one of the appeals heard by the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR, it was held that even a civilian could be found guilty of committing war crimes.
Chapter V deals with the two arms of criminal responsibility, to wit., individual responsibility and command responsibility. The facets of criminal responsibility are also lucidly explained in the chapter.
In Chapter VI, the author delves into the fascinating but problematic issue of admissibility of evidence in proceedings before international tribunals. The chapter shows that international tribunals have adopted and applied, largely, the rules of admissibility of evidence operating in common law jurisdictions. The reader is informed that international tribunals, unlike regular courts in common law legal systems, have opted for a liberal approach to the admissibility of hearsay evidence and ascribe appropriate probative value to it as the situation may warrant. The author explains the definitions of “rape” and “sexual violence” in the landmark decision of Prosecutor Vs Akayesu.
The components of the right to a fair trial in proceedings before the ICTR and similar tribunals are addressed in Chapter VII. The chapter also discusses the concept of equality of persons in proceedings before international tribunals and the remedies available to an accused person whose right to a fair trial has been violated.
Chapter VIII charts the terrain of the concept of double jeopardy with significant leaning on the plea of autrefois acquit and the non bis in idem principle; the former applies in proceedings before domestic courts while the latter is relevant to proceedings before separate international tribunals or courts of separate nations.
Chapter IX provides an interesting insight into the concept of cumulative charging and cumulative convictions which, arguably, is an exception to the double jeopardy rule in proceedings before international criminal tribunals. The author illustrates, through cases tried before the Trial Chamber of the ICTR, instances in which multiple convictions were secured for multiple for crimes arising from the same act. The author intelligently provides a compact table showing crimes that could warrant cumulative convictions, at the end of the chapter.
The author rounds off with summaries of some outstanding judgments delivered by the ICTR (Annexure I) the Statute of the ICTR (Annexure II) and the Genocide Convention (Annexure III).
The book has a crisp but fluid readability. The historical backgrounds and case-law reviews provided are rich and effortless to assimilate. The book is recommended as a “must-have” for the legal literati, students of international law and the informed public. As John Ruskin noted, “All books are divided into two classes, the books of the hour and the books of all time.” Mr. Jegede has bestowed on us, a book of all time.