Arusha, 13 July 2007 (FH)-Juvénal Rugambarara, the former mayor of Bicumbi (eastern Rwanda) admitted Friday his responsibility during the genocide, becoming the eighth defendant to plead guilty since the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in November 1994.  

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Rugambarara, 48, pleaded guilty to the single count of extermination of Tutsis in three sectors of his commune: Mwulire, Mabare and Nawe.

The defendant admitted that in his capacity as mayor, he knew that subordinates on whom he exerted an effective control organized and perpetrated attacks against Tutsi refugees. He acknowledged not to have taken any steps to open investigations in order to apprehend and transfer the persons responsible for these crimes to the competent authorities for appropriate punishment.

Rugambarara recognized that as a mayor he had the legal obligation to act and that his penal responsibility is engaged due to his inaction.

The guilty plea was accepted by the chamber which considered it to be sincere and unambiguous. A preliminary sentencing hearing was scheduled for September.

Rugambarara, who expressed remorse and asked for forgiveness from the victims, will plead mitigating circumstances. To demonstrate this fact he will call character witnesses.

The defendant and the Prosecutor proposed a sentence from nine to twelve years in prison. The determination of the sentence is however a prerogative of the judges.

The defendants who have pleaded guilty before Rugambara are the former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, the journalist George Ruggiu, the former radio operator Joseph Serugendo, the former Councilor Vincent Rutaganira, the former chief militiaman Omar Serushago, the former youth leader Joseph Nzabirinda and the former Mayor Paul Bisengimana.

Several other cases were, also, scheduled this week, some were heard in closed sessions. The closed session concerned mainly the defendants whose trials have not yet begun. They were the status conferences of these cases.

Status conferences were, thus, held in the cases of Callixte Kalimanzira, former directeur de cabinet in the Ministry of the Interior, Ephrem Setako, a colonel in the former Rwandan army, and Gaspard Kanyarukiga, a former businessman in Kigali and Kibuye (western Rwanda).

Proceedings also continued in two group trials: Butare and Karemera.

The Butare trial, an area in southern Rwanda, was adjourned until 20 August. The chamber had just heard the opening statement of the fifth of the six co-defendants, the former mayor of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi; in this, according to lawyers, "unending" trial.

Kanyabashi denied any responsibility in the genocide of Tutsis and exposed his powerlessness against "the genocidary forces" which had invaded his commune.

The Butare trial has been ongoing since June 2001.

Another defendant who began his defense this week, in an individual trial, is Father Emmanuel Rukundo. He was a military chaplain. He is accused of massacring Tutsis in central Rwanda. He has pleaded not guilty.

In the Karemera case, on the other hand, it is the Prosecutor who is calling his witnesses. Edouard Karemera was a vice-president of the ruling party in Rwanda in 1994. He is accused with two other heads of his party, Matthieu Ngirumpatse, the president, and Joseph Nzirorera, the secretary-general. The proceedings started in September 2005.


© Hirondelle News Agency