Arusha, February 11, 2010 (FH) -The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Thursday sentenced to 15 years imprisonment  former Rwandan military officer Lieutenant-Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi for his role in the 1994 genocide.

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‘'Considering all relevant circumstances, the Chamber sentences Muvunyi to 15 years imprisonment and shall receive credit for his time served since he was arrested in the United Kingdom on 5 February, 2000,'' ordered the Presiding Judge Dennis Byron.

The Chamber said that it found Muvunyi guilty beyond  any reasonable doubt over a speech he gave at the Gikore Centre in May, 1994 which led to killings of ethnic Tutsis the next day. ‘'The Chamber finds that Tutsis were attacked and killed the morning after the Gikore meeting,'' stressed the three-bench Chamber.

This is the first judgment of the year at the UN court, established to try key suspects in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Muvunyi's is the first retrial in the history of the ICTR.

In the first trial, the ex-officer of the Rwandan Armed Forces had been sentenced to 25 years in prison for genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and other inhumane acts.

However, the Appeals Chamber overturned the lower court's judgment on August 29, 2008, and ordered a new trial on one count only. It retained only the count of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, throwing out the other charges on grounds of errors in the indictment.

The single charge of direct and public incitement to commit genocide relates particularly to a speech made by the accused at the Gikore Commercial Centre, Butare Prefecture, southern Rwanda, in May 1994. Muvunyi is accused of using Kinyarwanda proverbs to encourage Hutus to kill Tutsis.

 ‘'This is an outrageous judgement...He is being persecuted, not being prosecuted,'' his lead defence Counsel William Taylor said moments after the judgement, adding that he would appeal the sentence.

 The Prosecution Senior Trial Attorney, Charles Adeogun-Phillips, told Hirondelle Agency that he was satisfied with the judgement.

 Muvunyi's re-trial opened on June 17, 2009. The prosecutor presented six witnesses in five days while the defence brought seven witnesses.

The ICTR has so far convicted 41 persons and acquitted eight.


© Hirondelle News Agency