13.03.08 - ICTR/MUVUNYI - PROSECUTION SEEKS LIFE IMPRISONMENT IN APPEAL AGAINST COLONEL MUVUNYI

Arusha, 13 March 2008 (FH) – The prosecutor has asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) appellate court to sentence Lieutenant Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi to life in prison.  
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On 12 September, Muvunyi, 55, who according to the prosecutor was in charge of the Non-Commissioned Officers School (ESO) in south Butare in 1994, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for incitement to genocide.

"The prosecutor asks you to replace the sentence of 25 years with that of life in prison," pleaded Francois-Xavier Nsanzuwera, member of the prosecution team.

The Rwandan lawyer explained that the sentence does not reflect the intrinsic gravity of the crime of incitement to genocide, especially considering the fact that he was an officer with the rank of colonel at the time.

The court of first instance had concluded that Muvunyi had been present in at least two places within the Butare prefecture and had called upon Hutu citizens to kill Tutsis.
 
"His function as most highly ranked officer in the prefecture inciting Hutu peasants to genocide should have been considered as an aggravating circumstance," said Nsanzuwera. 

 "The crime of incitement to genocide is so serious that it alone should merit the sentence of life imprisonment," the attorney stressed.

The prosecutor alleged moreover that the court of first instance did not put enough weight on a meeting directed by Muvunyi at the ESO on 20 April 1994 during which he is said to have invited soldiers to follow the instructions to kill Tutsis, given the day before by interim president Theodore Sindukwabo.
 
 "The statements made by Colonel Muvunyi were the equivalent of an invitation to action, followed by the soldiers who freely participated in the massacres over the following two months," Nsanzuwera emphasized, adding that at no time did the Colonel act to stop the soldiers.
 
Muvunyi was sentenced due to his failure to stop the ESO soldiers, considered as his subordinates, from committing the massacres.

Evelyne Kamau (Kenya), a colleague of Nsanzuwera, added that the Colonel must be punished for the rapes commited by his ESO soldiers in Butare.
 
At the end of the debates, Muvunyi himself spoke, declaring that he had never been commander of the ESO. He added that he did not have the authority to punish soldiers at fault. "I would like one more time to announce loud and clear that I never exercised the functions of ESO commander, never held that title, not even on an interim basis," he said.
 
"There was not one official communique or document of any kind that named me to that post," he emphasized. He asked the court to "repair the incalculable harm caused me by the first judges' ruling."
 
His lawyer, William Taylor (USA), had earlier affirmed that Colonel Marcel Gatsinzi, who briefly functioned as head of the Rwandan army in April 1994, had remained "de jure" commander of the ESO during the three months of the genocide.The appellate court, presided over by Italian judge Fausto Pocar, retired for deliberation. It did not indicate when it will render its judgment.
 
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