Reliability and credibility of witnesses

Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement I - 29.08.2008 MUVUNYI Tharcisse

144. It is within a Trial Chamber’s discretion to assess any inconsistencies in the testimony of witnesses, and to determine whether, in the light of the overall evidence, the witnesses were nonetheless reliable and credible.[1] However, the Trial Chamber also has an obligation to provide a reasoned opinion.[2] From the discussion of the evidence in the Trial Judgement, the Appeals Chamber cannot conclude whether a reasonable trier of fact could have relied on the testimony of Witnesses YAI and CCP to convict Muvunyi for this event. The Appeals Chamber is particularly troubled by the numerous inconsistencies in their testimonies as to the core details relating to Muvunyi’s alleged speech[3] and by the utter lack of any discussion of these inconsistencies in the Trial Judgement.[4] In view of this, the Appeals Chamber finds it impossible to assess the finding that the testimony of Witnesses YAI and CCP about the meeting was “strikingly similar” or consistent with respect to the material facts relating to this charge.

147. The Appeals Chamber recalls again that a Trial Chamber has an obligation to provide a reasoned opinion. In this instance, the Appeals Chamber considers that the Trial Chamber did not provide sufficient reasons for preferring the testimony of Witnesses YAI and CCP over that of Witness MO78. The Trial Chamber did not point to any inconsistencies in the evidence of Witness MO78 nor did it identify any reasons for doubting his credibility. The Trial Chamber appears to have deemed Witness MO78 unreliable solely on the basis that his evidence differed from that of Witnesses YAI and CCP. Such an approach is of particular concern given the Trial Chamber’s express recognition[5] of the need to treat the evidence of Witnesses YAI and CCP, unlike the evidence of Witness MO78, with caution.[6] The Appeals Chamber therefore finds that the Trial Chamber failed to provide a reasoned opinion on this point.

[1] See e.g., Bagilishema Appeal Judgement [The Prosecutor v. Ignace Bagilishema, Case No. ICTR-95-1A-A, Judgement (Reasons), 3 July 2002], para. 78.

[2] Simba Appeal Judgement [The Prosecutor v. Aloys Simba, Case No. ICTR-01-76-A, Judgement, 27 November 2007], para. 152; Kamuhanda Appeal Judgement [Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda v. The Prosecutor, Case No. ICTR-95-54A-A, Judgement, 19 September 2005], para. 32; Kajelijeli Appeal Judgement [Juvénal Kajelijeli v. The Prosecutor, Case No. ICTR-98-44A-A], Judgement, 23 May 2005, para. 59; Semanza Appeal Judgement [Laurent Semanza v. The Prosecutor, Case No. ICTR-97-20-A, Judgement, 20 May 2005], paras. 130, 149; Niyitegeka Appeal Judgement [Eliézer Niyitegeka v. The Prosecutor, Case No. ICTR-96-14-A, Judgement, 9 July 2004], para. 124; Rutaganda Appeal Judgement [Georges Anderson Nderubumwe Rutaganda v. The Prosecutor, Case No. ICTR-96-3-A, Judgement, 26 May 2003], para. 536; Musema Appeal Judgement [Alfred Musema v. The Prosecutor, Case No. ICTR-96-13-A, Judgement, 16 November 2001], paras. 18, 277; Čelebići Case Appeal Judgement [Prosecutor v. Zejnil Delalić et al., Case No. IT-96-21-A, Judgement, 20 February 2001], para. 481; Kupreškić et al. Appeal Judgement [Prosecutor v. Zoran Kupreškić et al., Case No. IT-95-16-A, Judgement, 23 October 2001], para. 224.

[3] Compare T. 25 May 2005 pp. 4-16 (Witness YAI) with T. 9 June 2005 pp. 1-14 (Witness CCP).

[4] See Trial Judgement, para. 209.

[5] See Trial Judgement, paras. 206, 208.

[6] Cf. Simba Appeal Judgement, para. 143.

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ICTR Statute Article 22(2) ICTY Statute Article 23(2)