Arusha, 13 July 2007 (FH) - The former mayor of Bicumbi (eastern Rwanda), Juvénal Rugambarara, pleaded guilty to extermination of Tutsis in his commune in 1994 on Friday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  

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Wearing a dark suit, with a posed voice, expressing in his mother tongue of Kinyarwanda, Rugarambara, 48, admitted all the facts which are charged against him.

"I have understood the indictment such as it was read to me and I plead guilty", he said. "I am really saddened by what happened", he continued.

Rugambarara recognized the extermination of Tutsis committed in three sectors of his commune in 1994 by his subordinates without taking measures to carry out investigations in order to bring the suspects before the courts.

Among his subordinates included the conseillers de secteurs , communal police officers, local civil servants and militiamen.

"I have waited impatiently for this day to relieve my conscience tarnished by the extermination which took place in my commune at the time of the genocide", he stated.

Rugambarara was mayor of Bicumbi from 16 September 1993 to 20 April 1994. He regretted that when he was in office "my Tutsi compatriots were victims of a humiliating extermination".

He expressed his contrition and after having inclined himself before the memory of the victims, he asked for a "humble pardon" notably from the widows and the orphans of his commune.

"I lost my humanity during those days marked by the horror of genocide and crimes against humanity", Rugambarara underlined.

He hoped that this plea will enable him "to recover a part of his manly dignity".

Rugambarara also launched a call to the president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame. "I ask you from the bottom of my heart to intensify the fight for the reconciliation of all the Rwandan people so that all, Hutus, Tutsis and Twas, can live together like the retina and the pupil of eye".

The chamber presided by Sri Lankan Judge Joseph Asoka de Silva accepted Rugambarara's guilty plea.

A preliminary sentence hearing, during which the defence will notably plead mitigating circumstances, was scheduled for 17 September.

The defendant and the prosecutor proposed a sentence ranging from nine to twelve years, but the decision is the prerogative of the chamber.

Rugambarara was arrested in Uganda on 11 August 2003 and was transferred to Arusha two days later. He faced nine counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes which included acts of torture and rape for which he had pleaded not guilty on 15 August 2003.

Rugarambara stated to have decided to plead guilty "of my own will and because my conscience dictated it to me".

Rugarambara is the eighth accused who has pleaded guilty before the ICTR since its creation in 1994.


© Hirondelle News Agency