Review of alibi evidence on appeal

Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 16.11.2009 ZIGIRANYIRAZO Protais

43. The Appeals Chamber therefore finds that the Trial Chamber reversed the burden of proof in its assessment of Zigiranyirazo’s alibi. The Appeals Chamber’s conclusion is reinforced by the Trial Chamber’s failure, in contrast to other cases where similar language was used, to articulate correctly the applicable burden of proof specific to the assessment of an alibi as well as by the numerous other factual and legal errors identified below. In view of the clear legal error in the application of the burden of proof, the Appeals Chamber will proceed to consider the relevant evidence de novo under the correct legal standard.

51. In sum, the Appeals Chamber concludes that the Trial Chamber erred in law and in fact in its assessment of the alibi evidence, by misapprehending the applicable legal principles, failing to consider or provide a reasoned opinion with respect to relevant evidence, and misconstruing key evidence which further bolstered Zigiranyirazo’s alibi. The Appeals Chamber considers that these errors constituted a miscarriage of justice and invalidated the verdict, and thus that the Trial Chamber’s findings on Zigiranyirazo’s participation in the attack at Kesho Hill on 8 April 1994 must be overturned. [see also para. 73 of this Appeal Judgement]

63. The Appeals Chamber recalls its conclusions in connection with the Sixth Ground of Appeal that the Trial Chamber’s failure to maintain a record of the site visit did not invalidate the verdict.[2] Nevertheless, a review of the Trial Chamber’s discussion of the alibi in relation to the Kiyovu Roadblock reveals that it committed three significant errors: not applying the correct legal standard to the assessment of the alibi; misconstruing key evidence to discount the alibi; and failing to consider or provide a reasoned opinion with respect to relevant evidence.

71. When viewed as a whole under the correct standard, the evidence in support of Zigiranyirazo’s alibi, which was not discounted by the Trial Chamber, provides a reasonable basis to conclude that he remained in Rubaya and its surrounding area on 12 and 17 April 1994. Accordingly, the Appeals Chamber finds that the alibi evidence casts doubt on the Prosecution evidence placing him at the Kiyovu Roadblock on 12 and 17 April 1994.

75. In reversing Zigiranyirazo’s convictions for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity, the Appeals Chamber again underscores the seriousness of the Trial Chamber’s errors. The crimes Zigiranyirazo was accused of were very grave, meriting the most careful of analyses. Instead, the Trial Judgement misstated the principles of law governing the distribution of the burden of proof with regards to alibi and seriously erred in its handling of the evidence. Zigiranyirazo’s resulting convictions relating to Kesho Hill and the Kiyovu Roadblock violated the most basic and fundamental principles of justice. In these circumstances, the Appeals Chamber had no choice but to reverse Zigiranyirazo’s convictions.

[1] See supra para. 10.

[2] See supra Section III.A.2 (Ground 6: Alleged Errors in Evaluating Exculpatory Evidence Related to Kesho Hill).

Download full document