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Rwanda: Unfair trials: justice denied

, Index number: AFR 47/008/1997

The first trials in Rwanda of defendants accused of participation in genocide and other crimes against humanity opened in late December 1996. Since then, at least 13 defendants have been sentenced to death, six to life imprisonment and one has been acquitted. Although the trials represent a significant step towards justice in Rwanda, there is concern that the conduct of some of the first trials have raised grave doubts about their fairness. This report details such concerns, including the lack of proper legal representation for defendants, the independence of the judiciary, the conduct of the trials themselves, and the lack of adequate right of appeal against sentences. Amnesty International is unconditionally opposed to the use of the death penalty and is especially concerned when people may be sentenced to death after unfair trials. This report contains detailed and practical recommendations urging the authorities to ensure that for their efforts and the trials themselves to be effective, they must conform to international standards of fairness.

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