Kamonyi, southern Rwanda, 9 May 2008 (FH) - Innocent Nsengiyumva, 55, a survivor of the 1994 genocide, was found guilty of crimes against humanity by the semi-traditional Gacaca Court and sentenced to 30 years in prison for having planted a banana tree on the his brother's tomb in the Nyarubaka sector ,Kamonyi district, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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The indictment charged that Nsengiyumva would have inflicted an indignant treatment to the remains of his brother, Justin Munyangabe, who was killed in April 1994, by planting, at the beginning of 1995, a banana tree seedling on his tomb.

Seized of the case, the gacaca court convicted him. The conviction was confirmed in appeal, explained Faustin Dusabe, President of the Appellate Court of the sector. His wife has asked for a revision of the judgement.

According to the local president of IBUKA, the main association of survivors, who is a neighbour of the defendant, "the trial was started and carried out in order to settle a score''. It was denounced by IBUKA throughout the proceedings, he claimed.

One of Munyagabe's killers, Marc Nkurikiye, confirms: "when we buried him the banana trees were already there, just as they remained there when we exhumed him".

A fact brought up by Laurent Kigombe, a soldier who helped with the exhumation. "We did not touch anything, not even the banana trees", he explained, re-stating his testimony before the gacaca court.

Jean Karahamuheto gives another argument in favour of the defendant. "I said it before the court that the banana tree had been planted in 1988, six years before the genocide. It is myself who gave the seedling to Nsengiyumva, but they chose not to hear this testimony", he told Hirondelle Agency.

"The court yielded before the imposing number of witnesses for the prosecution: 108 in total, compared to ten for the defence. And all confirmed that the banana tree was planted on the tomb", said the President.

According to Therese Bazubagira, a gacaca judge in the court of Gitegam, in the Kigali sector, the president of the appellate court would have told her, and to the national official of the gacacas, that the Nsengiyumva trial was not fair.

The authority of the Kigusa cell stated: "the survivor Nsengiyumva was wrongfully convicted; his detractors are the same killers of his family and the looters of its goods who proceeded to settle a score. We ask that they be rehabilitated".

Speciose Mukamusoni, Nsengiyuma's wife, has called for revision of the decision. "Surely that our demand for revision, filed on 2 February will recognize that we are right", she said.

The Gacaca courts are presided not by professional judges but by people nominated from the society who have high moral standing in the community.


© Hirondelle News Agency