Arusha, December 6th, '99 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday sentenced former Interahamwe militia leader Georges Rutaganda to life imprisonment for genocide and crimes against humanity. Rutaganda was second Vice-President of the extremist Hutu Interahamwe, seen as the spearhead of the genocide which left some one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead.

2 min 1Approximate reading time

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him. Trial Chamber One, presided by Judge Laity Kama of Senegal, found beyond reasonable doubt that Rutaganda had been present and participated in attacks against Tutsis in Kigali in 1994 and had even killed with his own hands. "Georges Rutaganda deliberately particpated in these crimes," said Judge Kama," and has never shown the least remorse. "Kama said the gravity of Rutaganda's crimes, his personal responsibility as a national Interahamwe leader and his role in the execution of the crimes far outweighed any mitigating circumstances such as the defendant's poor state of health and the fact that he saved a number of Tutsis during the genocide. "Rutaganda played an important role as leader and instigator, both in identity card checks [used at roadblocks to single out and kill Tutsis] and in the distribution of arms," said Kama. "He ordered killings on repeated occasions. He took no steps to stop the Interahamwe from committing crimes, but on the contrary he even killed with his own hands. "The court found Rutaganda guilty on three out of the eight counts charged against him. It found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination) for his part in massacres of thousands of Tutsis notably at the ETO school and Nyanza in Kigali. He was also found guilty of crimes against humanity (murder) for killing a Tutsi refugee with a machete. However, the court found him not-guilty of two other charges of crimes against humanity (murder) relating to the ETO and Nyanza massacres. Kama said the Chamber had done this because the charges related to the same facts as the crimes against humanity (extermination) charge, which it considered to be a more serious one. The court also found Rutaganda not-guilty on three counts of violating the Geneva Conventions applicable in times of war. Although the Chamber admitted there was a civil war going on in Rwanda at the time, and that most of the victims were civilians, it said "the Prosecutor has not convinced the Chamber that Rutaganda was in the category of people responsible for violations of the Geneva Conventions". This is the ICTR's sixth judgement since its creation in 1994, after the genocide in Rwanda. It is the fourth life sentence, after those passed on former mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda and former prefect of Kibuye Clément Kayishema. The prosecution had asked for the maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Rutaganda's Canadian defence counsel Tiphaine Dickson maintained that he was innocent, that the Interahamwe was not structured and that he had no control over the killers. Rutaganda was arrested in Zambia on October 10, 1995 and transferred to the ICTR prison in Arusha on 26th May, 1996. His trial started in March 1997 and took two years to complete. It was suspended several times because of the accused's health problems. JC/FH (RU§1206e)