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UN tribunal on Rwandan genocide hears arguments on sentencing of former mayor

UN tribunal on Rwandan genocide hears arguments on sentencing of former mayor

Prosecutors at the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the Rwandan genocide today urged its judges to sentence to 12 years’ imprisonment a former mayor who has pleaded guilty to a charge of extermination as a crime against humanity.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, heard closing arguments from both prosecutors and defence lawyers in the case of Juvénal Rugambarara, who served as mayor of Bicumbi commune in Kigali-Rural Prefecture from September 1993 to April 1994.

The prosecution said a prison sentence of not less than 12 years was appropriate, while the defence team argued for a more lenient sentence, calling five character witnesses to say that he had saved many Tutsis during the genocide. Judges Asoka de Silva (presiding), Taghrid Hikmet and Seon Ki Park will announce their decision at a date to be fixed.

In July Mr. Rugambarara made the guilty plea after two years of negotiations with prosecutors, who agreed to withdraw eight other charges that included genocide, torture and rape. During a hearing that month he also apologized for his actions in the genocide.

“I pay sincere tribute to all the innocent victims of the shameful cowardice and humbly bow and plead for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart… I solemnly pledge to join the rallying cry of those who say ‘never again,’” he said at the time.

The ICTR found that Mr. Rugambarara – who worked as a medical officer for much of his adult life – failed as mayor to take the necessary and reasonable measures to establish an investigation into the killings committed in Bicumbi commune during the genocide or to apprehend and punish the perpetrators.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered, mostly by machete or club, across Rwanda in less than 100 days starting in early April 1994. Later that year the Security Council established the ICTR to deal with the worst cases.