Arusha, March 29, 2011 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Tuesday sentenced to life imprisonment former Rwandan Director in the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, Jean-Baptiste Gatete, for genocide, and extermination, as a crime against humanity.

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''Considering all the relevant circumstances, the Chamber sentences Gatete to a single sentence of life imprisonment,'' Presiding Pakistan Judge Khalida Rachid Khan announced.

Flanked with two other judges of the bench, Judge Khan said that the Chamber found beyond reasonable doubt that Gatete was responsible for deaths of hundreds, and possibly thousands of Tutsis at three different massacres sites in the Eastern Rwanda between April 7 and 12, 1994.

The massacre sites where the convict had played an important crucial role includes in Rwankuba sector and Kiziguro parish in Murambi Commune, Byumba prefecture and Mukarange parish in Kayonza Commune, Kibungo prefecture.

"The large-scale killings, and the disposal of bodies, were carried out in a highly efficient manner. In sum, the Chamber finds that the conduct of those involved was concerted and coordinated for the purposes of killing Tutsis. This level of coordination could only have been achieved through prior agreement and planning among those involved," she said.

According to her, the Chamber carefully reviewed and considered the defence evidence given regarding the massacres but did not find it sufficient to cast doubt on the compelling evidence produced by prosecution witnesses.

French lead counsel for the convict, Marie- Pierre Poulain, reacted to the findings of the Chamber saying, "I have not been satisfied by the judgement. I will do what I can."

Gatete (58) had served as mayor of Murambi commune in Byumba prefecture (Northeast Rwanda) between 1987 and 1993 before he was relieved of his duty amidst allegations of persecuting Tutsis.

But soon after, he was appointed Director in the Women and Family Affairs Ministry then headed by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the lone woman genocide-suspect at ICTR, who is currently waiting deliver of judgement in her case.

He was a member of the National Congress of former ruling party, MRND, and was active in party politics both at national and provincial level. He allegedly continued to control local police, gendarmes and militiamen in Byumba and Kibungo prefectures after his dismissal and used his influence to organize massacres of Tutsis in both prefectures.

Gatete was arrested in Congo-Brazzaville on September 11, 2002, and subsequently transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha.  His trial started on October 20, 2009.

This is the first judgement of the year to be rendered at the first instance level of the Tribunal. Eight other cases involving 20 accused, among them former ministers and generals of the Rwandan army are expected to be delivered soon or later.


© Hirondelle News Agency