Human Rights Brief
A Legal Resource for the International Human Rights Community


Volume 13 Issue 3
Spring 2006

Prosecutor v. Aloys Simba
Case No. ICTR-01-76-T

by Meghan Stewart*
edited by Anne Heindel**

On December 13, 2005, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR or Tribunal) issued its judgment in the case of Prosecutor v. Simba. Simba, a well-known political and military figure, fought with the Rwandan Army from 1963 to 1967 and led the 1973 military coup d'etat that brought former President Juv�nal Habyarimana to power. Simba's military achievements earned him prominence in Rwanda; the government recognized him as a national military hero and Rwandan schools taught their students about his achievements. From 1989 to 1993, Simba served as a member of the Rwandan parliament representing Gikongoro prefecture.

The Prosecutor charged Simba with genocide, complicity in genocide, and the crimes against humanity of extermination and murder. At the close of trial, the Prosecution withdrew the charges of complicity in genocide and murder as a crime against humanity. The Trial Chamber found Simba guilty of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity and sentenced him to 25 years imprisonment. These convictions stemmed from Simba's responsibility for the killing of thousands of Tutsi taking refuge at Murambi Technical School, Cyanika Parish, and Kaduha Parish following the death of President Habyarimana and the start of the genocide. On April 21, 1994, large groups of interahamwe militia surrounded and systematically attacked each location with grenades, guns, and traditional weapons.

The Trial Chamber found that Simba participated in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) with local leaders and other prominent individuals to kill Tutsi civilians at these three sites. Under the JCE form of liability, individuals may be held criminally responsible for their "assistance in, or contribution to, the execution of a common [criminal] purpose." The actus reus for JCE contains three elements: (1) "a plurality of persons," (2) "the existence of a common purpose which amounts to or involves the commission of a crime provided for in the Statute," and (3) "the participation of the accused in the common purpose." The basic form of JCE, which the prosecutor alleged in this case, requires that "all the co-perpetrators, acting pursuant to a common purpose, possess the same criminal intention." For crimes with special intent requirements, all perpetrators must share the special intent.

Describing the three April 21, 1994, attacks as "a highly coordinated operation" that took place over the course of 12 hours, the Trial Chamber determined that the only reasonable explanation was that the attacks were the result of prior coordination by a plurality of persons acting with the common purpose of killing Tutsi. Although the Trial Chamber did not accept the Prosecutor's argument that Simba had necessarily taken part in planning the attacks, it found that he was a participant in the JCE and had coordinated his actions with other participants beforehand.

With regard to Murambi Technical School and Kaduha Parish, the Trial Chamber found that Simba's presence during the course of the attacks, provision of ammunition and weapons to the attackers, and urging of the attackers to "get rid of the filth" indicated that he shared the perpetrators' common purpose of killing Tutsi. With regard to the attacks at Cyanika Parish, however, the Trial Chamber had "some doubt that he equally shared the common purpose of killing Tutsi" because "there [was] no direct evidence linking him to Cyanika Parish or indicating that he knew and accepted that it would also form part of the operation." Because the Trial Chamber had previously determined that the killing of Tutsi in all three attacks was part of a common plan in which Simba participated, it is unclear why it sought to separately establish his intent to kill Tutsi at Cyanika Parish.

Based on his involvement in the JCE, the Trial Chamber found Simba guilty of genocide for the massacres at Murambi Technical School and Kaduha Parish. Noting that Tutsi are an ethnic group under the Statute's definition of genocide, the Chamber found that all the participants in the JCE, including the accused, intended to kill members of a protected group. Moreover, the Trial Chamber looked to the scale and context of the massacres and found that the only reasonable conclusion was that the participants possessed the specific intent to destroy the Tutsi group in whole or in part.

Simba, however, argued that because of his "close association with Tutsi and his tolerant views" he did not personally act with the specific intent necessary for a finding of genocide. The Trial Chamber agreed that "there [was] no clear evidence that Simba was among the adherents of a hard line anti-Tutsi philosophy," but, referring to the analysis of the ICTY Appeals Chamber in Kvocka et al., found that evidence of politically moderate views does not preclude a reasonable trier of fact from finding "in light of all the evidence provided" that an accused has acted with the requisite intent. Pointing to Simba's words and actions at the massacre sites, as well as his military background and knowledge of the attacks, the Trial Chamber found that "the only reasonable conclusion, even accepting [the accused's] submissions as true, is that at that moment, he acted with genocidal intent." It is notable, however, that the Kvocka Appeals Chamber's reasoning was not in reference to genocidal intent, but addressed whether discriminatory intent had been established for the crime against humanity of persecution.

The Trial Chamber held that Simba's participation in the massacres at Murambi Technical School and Kaduha Parish also met the requirements for extermination as a crime against humanity. The Chamber found that Simba had knowledge of the widespread attacks against Tutsi civilians in the area, was present at two of the massacre sites, and supported and encouraged the large-scale killing through his words and distribution of weapons.

In sentencing Simba to 25 years imprisonment, the Trial Chamber noted that, although Simba was a principle perpetrator in the JCE, he was not a formal member of the government at the time, did not physically participate in the crimes, did not linger at the massacre sites, and had subsequently condemned the genocide. Moreover, the Trial Chamber found that his prior record of public service could plausibly indicate that his crimes were motivated by "misguided notions of patriotism and government allegiance rather than extremism or ethnic hatred." Noting that "a sentence of life imprisonment is generally reserved [for] those who planned or ordered atrocities and those who participate in the crimes with particular zeal or sadism," the Chamber determined that Simba's crimes did not warrant the most severe punishment.

* Meghan Stewart is a J.D. candidate at the Washington College of Law
**Anne Heindel is the assistant director of the War Crimes Research Office at the Washington College of Law


The proper citation for this article in the Human Rights Brief Volume 13, Issue 3, beginning at page 10 is: 13 No. 3 Hum. Rts. Brief 10 (2006).