Arusha, February 19, 2003 (FH) - Judges at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday unanimously pronounced former Seventh day Adventist pastor, Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son medical doctor Gerard Ntakirutimana guilty of genocide in connection with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The pastor and son have been sentenced to 10 and 25 years in jail respectively.

1 min 43Approximate reading time

“Pastor Ntakirutimana distanced himself from his (ethnic) Tutsi pastors and flock in their hour of need”, presiding judge, Erik Møse of Norway concluded after the judgement. As for Gerard Ntakirutimana, 45, the judge said that “as a medical doctor, he took lives instead of saving them”. Pastor Ntakirutimana, 78, is the first clergyman to be convicted of genocide by an international tribunal. The pastor and son, seating next to each other, remained expressionless as the judgement and the sentence were read out. Pastor Ntakirutimana, was the president of the west Rwanda SeventhDay Adventist (SDA) area at the time of the genocide. He was based at Mugonero SDA complex in Kibuye province. His son, Gerard Ntakirutimana, 45, was a doctor at the SDA hospital in the complex. The two are mainly accused of luring ethnic Tutsi refugees into Mugonero SDA complex before bringing in militias to kill them. They are also accused of participating in the pursuit and killings of Tutsis in the Bisesero hills in Kibuye. The refugees were fleeing from extremist Hutu militias. The trial began in September 2001 and closed in August, 2002. The chamber found the pastor and his son guilty of conveying armed attackers to Mugonero complex where unarmed predominantly Tutsi men, women and children had taken refugee. The judges further ruled that there was sufficient evidence that Gerard Ntakirutimana participated in the attacks that led to deaths of hundreds or thousands of refugees. They were found guilty of participating in the attacks on Bisesero hills. However, the two have been acquitted of crimes against humanity and war crimes. The chamber also said that in its sentence, it had taken into account the fact that the two had been people of good conduct prior to the genocide. “This is a victory for the victims of Mugonero and Bisesero”, lead prosecutor for the Ntakirutimana trial, Charles Phillips told Hirondelle shortly after the sentencing. Judgements and sentences passed by the ICTR can be appealed in its appeals chamber. ICTR convicts serve their sentences in Mali. Swaziland and Benin have also accepted to host ICTR convicts. The period already spent in detention by pastor Ntakirutimana and his son will be deducted from their sentence. The trial, one of the fastest in ICTR history, was before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of judges Erik Møse of Norway (presiding), Navanethem Pillay of South Africa, and Andrésia Vaz of Senegal. GG/CE/FH (NT'0219e)