Arusha, June 1st, 2000 (FH) - Rwanda has criticized the 12-year prison sentence handed down on former hate-radio presenter Georges Ruggiu as being too lenient, the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. "We're not satisfied," said Rwanda's representative to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Martin Ngoga.

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"The Chamber has been too lenient. It has neglected, it has ignored the gravity of the crimes of which he has been convicted, and to which he pleaded guilty. "The mitigating circumstances advanced are not actually relevant to the case," Ngoga continued. "They have given too much consideration to mitigating circumstances rather than aggravating ones, which are more valuable in our opinion. "The ICTR on Monday sentenced Ruggiu to two concurrent 12-year sentences for direct and public incitement to genocide and persecution as a crime against humanity. He pleaded guilty to both charges on May 15th, after he was authorized to change his plea from a previous one of not-guilty. The convict was a journalist with Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), the radio that incited Hutus to kill Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide. The court stressed the seriousness of the crimes, the extent of Ruggiu's involvement and that fact that, at least from a certain point in April 1994, he could not have been unaware that his broadcasts were inciting massacres of civilians. However it considered as mitigating circumstances the fact that he pleaded guilty and expressed remorse, that he was cooperating with the prosecution and that he had not killed with his own hands. It also found credible two character witnesses who described Ruggiu as a good man who had been manipulated by extremists. Both prosecution and defence seemed satisfied with the sentence. "This sentence is a good gesture for other accused who would also wish to plead guilty and accept responsibility for their crimes," Chief of Prosecutions Mohamed Othman told Hirondelle. "I am not complaining, although we had asked for a 20-year jail sentence. " The factual and legal basis for Ruggiu's guilty plea were laid down in a plea agreement negotiated between prosecution and defence. Ruggiu's defence lawyers said they were relieved and that the judgement was a very good one. "The decision is a respectable, human and balanced one," Ruggiu's Tunisian counsel told Hirondelle. "It takes into account the gravity of the crimes, the suffering of the victims, but it also takes into account the particular circumstances of the Ruggiu case. "Co-counsel Jean-Louis Gilissen said this judgement could set a precedent. "Not only does this decision take everyone's interests into account [. . . ], but what seems to us to be a tremendous message from the Tribunal is that this tribunal is obviously capable of listening to the story of an individual and of lending an attentive ear to each accused person," he told Hirondelle. "I don't suggest for a moment that that has not always been the case, but perhaps never before has a judgement refelected that so much. "JC/FH (RG%0601f)