Arusha, 7 December 2007 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) delivered Friday its 35th verdict by sentencing to life in prison François Karera, the former prefect of Kigali.

1 min 31Approximate reading time

It is the eleventh life sentence, maximum sentence possible at this tribunal created by the United Nations after the 1994 genocide. Karera was found guilty of three of the four counts of the indictment. His position as a senior official of those that committed the massacres, municipal police officers, militiamen, was also denounced.

During the proceedings, which lasted over 11 months, the prosecution and the defence were opposed on material witnesses. The prosecution presented 18 and the defence 25, including the defendant. The presence and the participation of Karera during attacks committed in Nyamirambo, a district of Kigali, or at the Ntarama church, an area located about thirty kilometres from the capital, were proven.

His empty promise of safety to the refugees in the Ntarama church, a day before of an attack in which he took part, was regarded as an aggravating circumstance. Karera had arrived by bus with a group of Interahamwe that he had encouraged to attack the church. Seven hundred people were killed. No extenuating circumstances were found.

Dressed in a maroon suit, green shirt, gold tie, Karera remained stoic during the reading of his judgment whereas in front of him, at the bench of the prosecution, a young Rwandan, woman who had for the first time presented the prosecution case during an ICTR trial, kissed her colleagues. In the public gallery, Rwandans women in traditional dress also came to testify by their presence that they regarded the former prefect as responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.

This judgment is the first to be delivered in more than a year at the end of contradictory proceedings. The two other judgments which have occurred in 2007 came after a guilty plea; Joseph Nzabirinda, a former youth manager, in February, and Juvénal Rugambarara, a former mayor, in November.

Since its creation in 1994, the ICTR has delivered 30 guilty verdicts and 5 acquittals. 28 people are currently on trial. The ICTR should, according to United Nations, finish its first instance trials by the end of 2008. Six people are still awaiting a trial. For this reason, the prosecutor has asked that five of them be transferred to Rwanda to be tried there. The judges have not yet made their decisions known.

© Hirondelle News Agency