Rwanda: UN court jails ex-military leader, two others for life on genocide charges

Rwanda: UN court jails ex-military leader, two others for life on genocide charges

Genocide survivor Eugenie Mukeshimana lights candle in observance of 14 anniversary
A United Nations court today sentenced the alleged mastermind behind the 1994 massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in Rwanda and two co-defendants to life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In a trial that began nearly nine years ago, the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) found Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, the highest authority over the Rwandan military in April 1994 when the genocide of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Hutu extremists began, responsible for the killing of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and other leading officials.

The court, which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, found him equally guilty in connection with the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers by Rwandan soldiers, and responsible for the organized killings perpetrated by soldiers and militiamen in Kigali, the capital, and Gisenyi in the west of the tiny country between 6 and 9 April, 1994.

The ICTR found Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva guilty as commander of the elite Para Commando Battalion for the participation of his soldiers in killings at Kabeza, Nyanza Hill and the African and Mauritian Statistical and Economic Institute in Kigali.

Major Aloys Ntabakuze was found guilty in connection with the massacres at Mutende University, the targeted killings of civilians in Gisenyi prefecture, and for sending militiamen to Bisesero in Kibuye prefecture to kill displaced Tutsis in June 1994.

A fourth defendant, Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi, was acquitted and ordered released. The prosecution alleged that he participated in the distribution of weapons, meetings to plan genocide and a number of specific crimes but the court found that it was not proven that he had operational authority or targeted civilians.

All of the accused were acquitted of conspiring to commit genocide before 7 April, when the violence erupted following the death a day earlier of President Juvénal Habyarimana when his plane was shot down. A total of 242 witnesses were heard during the trial – 82 for the prosecution and 160 for the defence – during 408 days of active sessions.

In another case the ICTR sentenced Protais Zigiranyirazo, Mr. Habyarimana’s brother-in-law, to 20 years jail on charges of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity for “participating in a joint criminal enterprise with the common purpose of committing genocide and extermination of Tutsi at Kesho Hill as well as aiding and abetting genocide at the Kiyovu roadblock.”

But it acquitted the defendant, also known as “Mr. Z,” of conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and murder as a crime against humanity, declaring that the prosecution had failed to prove that he conspired with officials to plan or facilitate attacks on Tutsis or that he had criminal responsibility for alleged involvement in the Interahamwe militant Hutu group.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the Tribunal for its continued efforts to complete its work while upholding due process and the rights of the accused.

“These judgments constitute a major step in the fight against the impunity of those responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern,” a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said. “The Secretary-General firmly believes that international justice is an essential component of peace and reconciliation.”