Arusha,, May 15, 2003 (FH) - The former minister of information in the interim rwandan government, Eliézer Niyitegeka, was on Thursday sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) after he was found him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. Trial Chamber One of the ICTR found Niyitegeka, 50, guilty on six of the ten counts initially brought against him.

1 min 43Approximate reading time

He was convicted of genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (assassination, extermination and other inhuman acts). The chamber on the other hand exonerated the accused on complicity to commit genocide, crimes against humanity (rape) and war crimes. Niyitegeka was judged responsible for the massacres of Tutsis during the genocide and violating international humanitarian law committed in Bisesero in the western province of Kibuye. In rendering the judgement, the chamber said that in its view, the crimes committed were “of a heinous nature”. The judges unanimously considered it an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused was a minister. “Instead of promoting peace, he turned to violence, incited and participated in massacres of civilians”. The chamber also recognised some mitigating circumstances but which “were outweighed by aggravating circumstances”. Among the mitigating circumstances were the fact that Niyitegeka had saved Hutus and Tutsis during the genocide, and that he was of good character before 1994. The chamber also recognised the fact that before 1994, the accused preached democratic principles and fought against ethnic discrimination. The chamber nevertheless concluded that the accused accepted to be a minister in the interim government on his own free will, and that he supported the actions of the prime minister, Jean Kambanda who pleadedguilty before the ICTR in 1998. It also found that he had incited Interahamwe militia to kill Tutsi civilians. It was found that the accused was also personally responsible for murder, including that of a Tutsi called Kabanda who was killed, "decapitated and then castrated", and that of a Tutsi woman. After killing her, the accused ordered Interahamwe militia to sharpen a piece of wood and insert it into the victim's genitalia and leave her by the roadside. Niyitegeka's trial was one of the fastest that the ICTR has ever conducted. The trial began on June 17, 2002 and has been in deliberation since February 28, 2003. The case was heard by Trial Chamber One composed of Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Møse of Norway and Andrésie Vaz from Senegal. Eliézer Niyitegeka is defended by two Irish judges, Sylvie Geraghty and Me Feargal Kavanag, while the prosecution is represented by Melinda Pollard form the USA. The prosecution called 13 witnesses while the defence called 11. Niyitegeka had pleaded not guilty to all charges levelled against him. KN/AT/CE/FH (NI'0515e)