Arusha, January 22, 2004 (FH) - Former Rwandan Minister for Higher Education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda was on Thursday sentenced to life in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for committing genocide. The tribunal found him guilty of two counts, genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.

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Kamuhanda, 51 was facing eight counts including genocide, complicity in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. He was acquitted on four charges while two charges were dismissed. GenocideThe presiding Judge, William Hussein Sekule (Tanzania), who read the verdict said Kamuhanda was a respected man, influential and considered to be an intellectual. He therefore was in a position to know and appreciate the dignity and value of life and importance of peaceful coexistence between communities. “Instead of doing so, he blamed people who were living peacefully for not taking part in the campaign of violence”, Sekule said. The tribunal found that Kamuhanda led an attack against thousands of Tutsis on April 12th 1994 in Gikomero Parish (Kigali-Rural Prefecture) where they had taken refuge. He arrived there with a group of Interahamwe, soldiers, policemen and local population who were armed to initiate the attack. The attack resulted in the death of a large number of Tutsi refugees at the parish compound. “He instigated and led an attack to kill people who had taken shelter in a place universally recognized to be a sanctuary, the compound of Gikomero Parish Church” the judge stated. ExterminationThe tribunal found established beyond a reasonable doubt that Kamuhanda is individually criminally responsible for instigating, ordering, aiding and abetting the extermination of the Tutsis at the Gikomero Parish. Judge Sekule added that the accused participated in the killings with the specific intent to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group. Alibi RejectedKamuhanda's defence argued during the hearing that it was not possible for the accused to travel from Kigali to Gikomero between April 6th and 13th because the road had been seized by RPF. The court rejected the alibi insisting that there were several routes leading to Gikomero and it was possible for Kamuhanda to get there. Kamuhanda was appointed Minister for Higher Education for the interim government on May 25th 1994. Kamuhanda is the third minister to be convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by ICTR. Former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda and Eliezer Niyitegeka, former Minister for Information, were previously sentenced to life imprisonment. Kamuhanda is the seventeeth accused to be convicted by the tribunal since its inception in 1994. PJ/CE/FH (KH'0122e)