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Dr Odora-Obote’s arguments and the positions of the Government of Rwanda aim to ensure that the Rwandan people, who were victims of the genocide and continue to be victimized by the regime at home and outside, will never be afforded the right to know the truth.

1. I want to thank my colleagues Chief Charles A. Taku, Peter Erlinder and Chris Black for their lucid analyses and refutations of Dr. Alex Obote-Odora’s positions.

2. I do not want to repeat their points, but instead want to focus on the tone of Dr. Obote-Odora’s reply (25 February 2015), which is referred to in Chief Taku’s superb response (3 March 2015).

3. I am concerned because the tone echoes the virulent attacks on ICTR Defence counsel by the Rwandan representative at Security Council meetings over the last few years. This may not have been the subjective intent of Dr. Obote-Odora, but objectively his reply disparages ICTR Defence counsel without a basis.

4. Dr. Obote-Odora’s reply conjures up a negative and unprofessional image of former ICTR Defence counsel – as critics who cry “politics” when the OTP makes a decision they find unpopular.

5. First, the OTP functions as a political office. It has failed to carry out the mandate of Security Counsel Resolution 955 (1994) to prosecute all parties to the Rwandan conflict in 1994, and has never prosecuted the RPF for its crimes which have been well-documented and continue against Hutus today.

6. Second, the Rwandan government continuously has tried to make the ICTR courtroom another battleground in which to fight against the former Hutu military and political leadership of 1994. The overall story in the Prosecution’s indictments is the “official narrative” of the RPF concerning the events of 1994. This is especially evident in the Military cases, but in others as well.

7. As a former ICTY Prosecutor has pointed out, “The struggle for the interpretation of historical events through the trial record might be as important in [the] long run as the determination of guilt or innocence of the individuals tried.”[1]

8. This is why, 21 years after the events, the shooting down of the plane remains the “Achilles heel” of the “official narrative.” And, the Rwandan government knows that it is most vulnerable on this point.

9. It is not enough for Rwanda that the ICTR has never decided the issue of who is responsible for the shooting down of the plane, despite credible Defence evidence attributing culpability to the RPF.

10. This is the reason that Rwanda has felt the need to proceed in its campaign to blame “extremist Hutus” for the assassinations of the two presidents, for example, issuing the Mutsinzi government report, which alleges that the culprits are “extremist Hutus” and its most recent campaign against the BBC’s documentary, ‘Rwanda’s Untold Story’.

11. But, within Dr. Obote-Odora’s legal justifications, we cannot lose sight of the bottom line:

Two Presidents (President Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Ntaryamira of Burundi) were killed when their plane was shot down on 6 April 1994, triggering the events of 1994 in Rwanda. How can this act of utmost international and national importance be ignored by the legal framework established to prosecute those responsible for the 1994 conflict, and tasked with restoring peace and fostering reconciliation?

12. Rather than confront this fundamental issue, Dr. Obote-Odora criticizes others in the legal profession whom he considers “peddlers” of unworthy legal issues. [Note: peddler is not an inherently derogatory term, but Dr. Obote-Odora uses it this way">.

13. But what is most distressing, about both Dr. Obote-Odora’s arguments and the positions put forth by the Government of Rwanda, is that the Rwandan people – the Tutsis, Hutus and Twas – who were the victims of the events of 1994, and continue to be victimized by the Rwandan government at home, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and other parts of the Diaspora – will never be afforded the right to know the truth about who is responsible for the murders of their families and friends.

14. In this situation, legal reasoning and justification must serve the greater interests of truth and justice. Unfortunately, Dr. Obote-Odora’s views and attacks on Defence counsel have not done this.

* Beth S. Lyons has served as a defence counsel at the ICTR from 2004-2014, and most recently in the “Military II” case in which she and Chief Charles A. Taku represented F.X. Nzuwonemeye, who was acquitted by the Appeals Chamber in February 2014.


[1] Nice, Professor Sir Geoffrey: “Legal process as a tool to rewrite history – Law, politics, history,” Lecture, Gresham College, 13 February 2013.



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