Guilt of an accused cannot be based on judicially noticed facts

Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 20.05.2005 SEMANZA Laurent

192. The Statute of the Tribunal provides that “[t]he accused shall be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to the provisions of the . . . Statute.”[1] The Trial Chamber in this case was careful to note that it could take judicial notice of facts of common knowledge under Rule 94 of the Rules, but that it could not “take judicial notice of inferences to be drawn from the judicially noticed facts.”[2] The Chamber emphasized that the “burden of proving the Accused’s guilt, therefore, continue[d] to rest squarely upon the shoulders of the Prosecutor for the duration of the trial proceeding,” and it stated that “the critical issue [was] what part, if any, . . . the Accused play[ed] in the events that took place.”[3] As these passages suggest, the Trial Chamber struck an appropriate balance between the Appellant’s rights under Article 20(3) and the doctrine of judicial notice by ensuring that the facts judicially noticed were not the basis for proving the Appellant’s criminal responsibility. Instead, the Chamber took notice only of general notorious facts not subject to reasonable dispute, including, inter alia: that Rwandan citizens were classified by ethnic group between April and July 1994; that widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population based on Tutsi ethnic identification occurred during that time; that there was an armed conflict not of an international character in Rwanda between 1 January 1994 and 17 July 1994; that Rwanda became a state party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) on 16 April 1975; and that, at the time at issue, Rwanda was a state party to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and their additional Additional Protocol II of 8 June 1977.[4] The Appeals Chamber finds that these judicially noted facts did not relieve the Prosecution of its burden of proof; they went only to the manner in which the Prosecution could discharge that burden in respect of the production of certain evidence which did not concern the acts done by the Appellant. When determining the Appellant’s personal responsibility, the Trial Chamber relied on the facts it found on the basis of the evidence adduced at trial.

[1] Article 20(3).

[2] Decision on Judicial Notice [The Prosecutor v. Laurent Semanza, Case No. ICTR-97-20-I, Decision on the

Prosecutor’s Motion for Judicial Notice and Presumptions of Facts Pursuant to Rules 94 and 54, 3 November 2000],para. 42.

[3] Ibid., para. 43.

[4] Ibid., Annex A, paras 1-6.

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