02.12.08 - ICTR/BIKINDI - EX-RWANDAN TOP SINGER GETS 15 YEARS JAIL OVER 1994 GENOCIDE

Arusha, 2 December, 2008 (FH)-Rwanda's former famous composer and singer, Simon Bikindi (54), has been handed down a 15 years sentence for his role to incite killings of ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.
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Delivering the judgement Tuesday, Presiding judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Chamber III, Monica Weinberg de Roca, said that Bikindi was guilty of direct and public incitement to commit genocide towards end of June, 1994, but was found not guilty of five other charges of conspiracy to commit genocide; genocide or alternatively complicity in genocide; murder and persecution as crimes against humanity, reports Hirondelle Agency.

"The Chamber recalls its finding that towards the end of June 1994, in Gisenyi Prefecture, on the main road between Kivumu and Kayove, Bikindi used public address system to state that the majority population, the Hutu, should rise up to exterminate the minority, the Tutsi," the judge told the fully-packed court room, adding that the accused used the same system to ask if people had been killing Tutsi, who he referred as snakes.

"The Chamber finds that both statements, over loadspeakers, were made publicly'', she said, underscoring that the address constituted a direct call to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group.

She reminded that direct and public incitement to commit genocide was by definition, a crime of the most serious gravity which affects the very foundations of the society and shocks the conscience of humanity.

"... You have abused your stature as a well-known and popular artist perceived to be an influential member of the MRND and an important figure in the Interahamwe movement by using your influence to incite genocide," underscore the Argentinian judge.

However, the three-bench Chamber has ruled that Bikindi would get credit of seven years that he has already served in the prison while waiting for his trial, which started in September, 2006 and concluded in November, last year.

Bikindi was arrested in The Netherlands in July 2001 and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha in March 2002.

Before the genocide, Bikindi was working at the Ministry of Youth and Association Movements of the Rwandan government and was also Director of the performance group, Irindiro Ballet. He left Rwanda 4 April, just two days before the genocide, but returned via Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) around 12 June, 1994.

He is first Rwandan musician to be sentenced over the 1994 genocide by a UN Court.

When contacted for comment, ICTR's Prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, said that he was satisfied over Bikindi's conviction. "We will study the judgement and consider how to proceed."

This is the second judgement to be delivered by the ICTR this year. Two more judgements are expected before end of the month. So far, 32 accused have been convicted and five acquitted.

The UN Court was established in November 1994 by Security Council to try the key suspects of the genocide, which according to the UN estimates claimed lives of about 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

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© Hirondelle News Agency