Life imprisonment

Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 30.01.2015 POPOVIĆ et al.
(IT-05-88-A)

2053. […] [T]he existence of mitigating circumstances does not automatically result in a reduction of sentence or preclude the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment where the gravity of the offence so requires.[1] […]

[1]           Nizeyimana Appeal Judgement, para. 445; Ntabakuze Appeal Judgement, paras 267, 280; Niyitegeka Appeal Judgement, para. 267.

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Appeal Judgement - 19.09.2005 KAMUHANDA Jean de Dieu
(ICTR-99-54A-A)

357. The principle of individualization requires that each sentence be pronounced on the basis of the individual circumstances of the accused and the gravity of the crime.[1] The gravity of the crime is a key factor that the Trial Chamber considers in determining the sentence.[2] The Trial Chamber in this case was cognizant of this obligation:

In sentencing Kamuhanda, the Chamber will take into account the gravity of the offences pursuant to Article 23 of the Statute and Rule 101 of the Rules, the individual circumstances of Kamuhanda, aggravating and mitigating circumstances as well as the general sentencing practice of the Tribunal.[3]

While arguing that the Trial Chamber “totally disregarded”[4] this obligation, the Appellant does not draw the attention of the Appeals Chamber to any specific error. He merely argues, without supporting his assertion, that a sentence of life in prison “may only be justified if the wrong occasioned by the crime is such that, in the interest of public law and order, the accused cannot be released even after several years”.[5] Domestic courts in some countries have held that an accused should be given the possibility of release, even if he is sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of his life. As the German Federal Constitutional Court stated the argument: “One of the preconditions of a humane penal system is that, in principle, those convicted to life sentences stand a chance of being freed again.”[6] The Appeals Chamber considers that, whatever its merits in the context of domestic legal systems, where it may apply “in principle”, this view is inapplicable in a case such as this one which involves extraordinarily egregious crimes. […]

[1] Čelebići Case Appeal Judgement, para. 717. Ntakirutimana Appeal Judgement, para. 551.

[2] See Musema Appeal Judgement, para. 382; Čelebići Case Appeal Judgement, para. 847.

[3] Trial Judgement, para. 755, in part (citations omitted).

[4] Appeal Brief [Appeal Brief – Pursuant to Rule 111 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, 19 October 2004], para. 511.

[5] Appeal Brief, para. 513. The original French text reads as follows: “[L’emprisonnement à vie] ne peut valablement se justifier que si le trouble inhérent au crime commis, rend à jamais incompatible avec les nécessités de l’ordre public, la libération de l’accusé même après plusieurs années.”

[6] BVerfGE 45, 187 [228, 229].

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ICTR Rule Rule 101(A) ICTY Rule Rule 101(A)
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Appeal Judgement - 08.05.2012 NTABAKUZE Aloys
(ICTR-98-41A-A)

280. Before turning to Ntabakuze’s specific arguments, the Appeals Chamber recalls that while a Trial Chamber has the obligation to consider any mitigating circumstances when determining the appropriate sentence, it enjoys a considerable degree of discretion in determining what constitutes a mitigating circumstance and the weight, if any, to be accorded to that factor.[1] Accordingly, the existence of mitigating circumstances does not automatically imply a reduction of sentence[2] or preclude the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment where the gravity of the offence so requires.[3]

305. […] In the same vein, the fact that Ntabakuze was the first person before the Tribunal to be sentenced to life imprisonment solely based on superior responsibility does not have any bearing on the reasonableness of the Trial Chamber’s findings on the matter. The Appeals Chamber emphasises that a sentence of life imprisonment is provided for in Rule 101(A) of the Rules irrespective of the mode of liability of which an accused is convicted. The Appeals Chamber therefore dismisses this part of Ntabakuze’s appeal.

308. Rule 101(C) of the Rules states that “[c]]redit shall be given to the convicted person for the period, if any, during which the convicted person was detained in custody pending his surrender to the Tribunal or pending trial or appeal”. As already held by the Appeals Chamber, this provision does not affect the ability of a Chamber to impose the maximum sentence, as provided in Rule 101(A) of the Rules.[4] The Appeals Chamber therefore dismisses Ntabakuze’s contention that the sentence imposed by the Trial Chamber deprived him of the benefit of any credit based on the period already spent in detention.

[1] See, e.g., Bagosora and Nsengiyumva Appeal Judgement, para. 424; Bikindi Appeal Judgement, para. 158. See also Munyakazi Appeal Judgement, para. 174.

[2] Nahimana et al. Appeal Judgement, para. 1038; Kajelijeli Appeal Judgement, para. 299; Niyitegeka Appeal Judgement, para. 267.

[3] See, e.g., Ntawukulilyayo Appeal Judgement, fn. 581; Renzaho Appeal Judgement, para. 612; Niyitegeka Appeal Judgement, para. 267.

[4] Karera Appeal Judgement, para. 397.

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ICTR Rule Rule 101(A);
Rule 101(C)
ICTY Rule Rule 101(A);
Rule 101(C)
Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 14.12.2011 NTAWUKULILYAYO Dominique
(ICTR-05-82-A)

Footnote 581. […] The Appeals Chamber recalls […] that it has held on several occasions that even where mitigating circumstances exist, a Trial Chamber is not precluded from imposing a life sentence where the gravity of the offence so requires. See Renzaho Appeal Judgement, para. 612; Karera Appeal Judgement, para. 390; Niyitegeka Appeal Judgement, para. 267. […]

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Appeal Judgement - 20.10.2010 RUKUNDO Emmanuel
(ICTR-2001-70-A)

260. The Appeals Chamber is not persuaded by the Prosecution’s assertion that the Gacumbitsi Appeal Judgement stands for the proposition that where an accused is convicted for genocide and his participation is that of a primary perpetrator or a leader, the sentence ought to be imprisonment for life, except where there are significant mitigating circumstances. The Gacumbitsi Appeal Judgement merely noted that in most of the other cases in which those convicted for genocide have received less than a life sentence, there were significant mitigating circumstances.[1] It made no statement that this was a generalized rule to be followed. Rather, it recalled that the sentence should first and foremost be commensurate with the gravity of the offences and the degree of liability of the convicted person.[2] Just as there is no category of cases within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal where the imposition of life imprisonment is per se barred, there is also no category of cases where it is per se mandated. Each case remains to be examined on its own individual facts.

261. Furthermore, with respect to the Prosecution’s submission that the Trial Chamber erred in limiting life sentences to certain senior authorities and lower level authorities who committed crimes with particular zeal, the Appeals Chamber considers that the Prosecution misconstrues the Trial Judgement. The Trial Chamber did not limit the imposition of life sentences to these two groups of perpetrators. It merely noted that these were instances in which life sentences had been imposed.[3]

[1] Gacumbitsi Appeal Judgement, para. 204.

[2] Gacumbitsi Appeal Judgement, para. 204.

[3] Trial Judgement, para. 605.

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Appeal Judgement - 21.07.2000 FURUNDŽIJA Anto
(IT-95-17/1-A)

250. The sentencing provisions in the Statute and the Rules provide Trial Chambers with the discretion to take into account the circumstances of each crime in assessing the sentence to be given.  A previous decision on sentence may indeed provide guidance if it relates to the same offence and was committed in substantially similar circumstances; otherwise, a Trial Chamber is limited only by the provisions of the Statute and the Rules.  It may impose a sentence of imprisonment for a term up to and including the remainder of the convicted person’s life.[1]  As a result, an individual convicted of a war crime could be sentenced to imprisonment for a term up to and including the remainder of his life, depending on the circumstances.

See also paras 251-252.

[1] Article 24 of the Statute and Rule 101(A) of the Rules.

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ICTR Statute Article 23 ICTY Statute Article 24 ICTR Rule Rule 101(A) ICTY Rule Rule 101(A)
Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 14.12.2015 NYIRAMASUHUKO et al. (Butare)
(ICTR-98-42-A)

3404.            The Appeals Chamber notes that nothing precludes a trial chamber from imposing a term of life imprisonment when the gravity of the offence so requires,[1] and that neither Article 7 nor Article 10 of the ICCPR prohibits life imprisonment.[2] The Appeals Chamber considers that Ntahobali’s submissions concerning the enforcement of his sentence are speculative. Furthermore, the Appeals Chamber observes that sentence enforcement issues were not matters for the Trial Chamber and that, as such, there can be no error on behalf of the Trial Chamber in this respect. His arguments concerning pardon, commutation of sentence, and early release are therefore dismissed.

3405.            The Appeals Chamber further dismisses Ntahobali’s contention that the absence in the Residual Mechanism Statute of a mandatory review of his life sentence after a fixed period would violate his fundamental rights. The Appeals Chamber observes that Ntahobali will retain the possibility to directly petition the President of the Residual Mechanism for pardon, commutation of sentence, or early release.[3]

[…]

3517.            The Appeals Chamber also dismisses Ndayambaje’s claim that imposing a single life sentence deprived him of the benefit of any credit based on the period already spent in detention and that the Trial Chamber erred in failing to provide a reasoned opinion in this regard. Rule 101(C) of the Rules states that “[c]redit shall be given to the convicted person for the period, if any, during which the convicted person was detained in custody pending his surrender to the Tribunal or pending trial or appeal”. This provision, however, does not affect the ability of a trial chamber to impose the maximum sentence, as provided for by Rule 101(A) of the Rules.[4]

[1] See Rule 101(A) of the Rules; Ntawukulilyayo Appeal Judgement, fn. 581; Munyakazi Appeal Judgement, para. 186, quoting Rukundo Appeal Judgement, para. 260 (“there is no category of cases within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal where the imposition of life imprisonment is per se barred, there is also no category of cases where it is per se mandated.”).

[2] See Stakić Appeal Judgement, para. 395.

[3] See Practice Direction on the Procedure for the Determination of Applications for Pardon, Commutation of Sentence, and Early Release of Persons Convicted by the ICTR, the ICTY or the Mechanism, MICT/3, 5 July 2012, para. 3.

[4] See Karera Appeal Judgement, para. 397.

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ICTR Rule Rule 101 ICTY Rule Rule 101
Notion(s) Filing Case
Appeal Judgement - 14.12.2015 NYIRAMASUHUKO et al. (Butare)
(ICTR-98-42-A)

The Appeals Chamber recalled: (i) its findings that the Trial Chamber erred in finding that Nyiramasuhuko, Ntahobali, and Ndayambaje’s right to be tried without undue delay had not been violated, and that these violations caused them prejudice; and (ii) that it had reversed some of their convictions. The Appeals Chamber then held as follows:

3523.            In light of the above, the Appeals Chamber, Judge Agius dissenting as to the number of years, reduces Nyiramasuhuko’s sentence of life imprisonment to 47 years of imprisonment.

[…]

3526.            In light of the above, the Appeals Chamber, Judge Agius dissenting as to the number of years, reduces Ntahobali’s sentence of life imprisonment to 47 years of imprisonment.

[…]

3538.            In light of the above, the Appeals Chamber, Judge Agius dissenting as to the number of years, reduces Ndayambaje’s sentence of life imprisonment to 47 years of imprisonment.

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