A UN judge found guilty in his native Turkey of membership of a terrorist organisation has resumed work on a stalled Rwanda genocide appeal while waiting for his own appeal to be heard.
Judge Aydin Sefa Akay, who sits at the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, was sentenced to seven years and six months last week for membership of the ‘Gulenist Terrorist Organisation’ (FETO). FETO’s existence is insisted on by Turkish officials. He has been provisionally released on ‘humanitarian’ grounds.
Akay’s passport is ‘forfeit’ and he may not leave Turkey, but now that the UN court and its judges are in direct contact with Akay, it has resumed its work on Augustin Ngirabatware's appeal against a 30-year sentence for crimes that include organisation of a genocide.
The court’s first decision since Akay’s detention last September was to grant the defence’s request for a review of the original judgment. A spokesperson for the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) told the Gazette: ‘The mechanism's understanding is that Judge Akay is confined to Turkey but… he has confirmed his ability and willingness to exercise his judicial functions in the Ngirabatware case.’
All of the judges on the bench, the spokesperson added, are currently carrying out their duties remotely apart from the president, judge Theodore Meron. Following Akay’s release from detention Meron consulted with Judge Akay, who confirmed his ability and willingness to exercise his judicial functions.
‘The issuance of the decision marks the resumption of the proceedings on the merits of the case by the full bench of the Appeals Chamber,’ the official MICT statement said.
MICT counsel and judges have been unanimous in condemning Akay’s detention and Turkey’s refusal to recognise his diplomatic immunity, asserted by the UN secretary general. Ngirabatware’s counsel, Peter Robinson, added that ‘efforts continue to get Turkey to respect [Akay's] diplomatic immunity’.