A former Rwandan mayor, who had been on the run for eight years, went on trial today at a United Nations war crimes tribunal on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in the 1994 massacres in the small Central African nation.
Grégoire Ndahimana, former mayor of Kivumu and one of the last 13 indicted fugitives until his arrest in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) last month, pleaded not guilty to all the charges arising from the 1994 genocide, when an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed by Hutu militants, mainly by machete, during a period of less than 100 days.
Mr. Ndahimana, 57, a high-level figure in the rebel Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) in eastern DRC, was handed over last week to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sitting in Arusha, Tanzania, a transfer facilitated by the UN Mission in DRC, known as MONUC.
He was indicted in 2001 and had been on the run since then. He is charged with four counts of genocide, or alternatively complicity in genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; and crimes against humanity for extermination.
He is alleged to have been responsible for killing or causing serious bodily or mental harm to Tutsis in Kivumu, and to have planned the massacres of mostly ethnic Tutsis who sought refuge at Nyange Parish, in conjunctions with Father Athanase Seromba, already sentenced to 15 years in the first instance and to life imprisonment after dismissal of his appeal, and Fulgence Kayishema, who is still at large.
Mr. Ndahimana was arrested on 10 August at Kachuga Camp in North Kivu during a combined operation by the ICTR, MONUC and DRC law enforcement agencies.
Also today, an ICTR Appeals Chamber heard oral arguments in the appeal lodged by Protais Zigiranyirazo and the prosecution against two 20-year and one 15-year concurrent jail sentences for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.
Mr. Zigiranyirazo, 71, a brother-in-law of late Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, alleges that the Trial Chamber committed numerous errors of law and fact, and asked the Appeals Chamber to overturn his convictions or alternatively reduce his sentence, while the prosecution is seeking a life sentence, or alternatively a total effective sentence greater than 20 years of imprisonment.
In all, 81 people have been indicted by the ICTR for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the Rwandan genocide.