Arusha, July 14, 2011 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which goes for a mid-year judicial recess commencing July 15, has delivered three judgments involving 11 accused - including two generals and one former Rwandan minister - in the past six months.

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In the same period the Tribunal also heard four cases involving six genocide-accused, including that of top former leaders of the then ruling MRND party; President Matthieu Ngirumpatse  and his Deputy, Edouard Karemera. Closing argument is scheduled on September 22.

The Appeals Chamber had its share of work that was implemented for the past six months. On April 1, 2011 the Chamber affirmed two convictions and sentences; a 15-year jail term for former Commander of the Non-Commissioned Officers School (ESO),Tharcisse Muvunyi and life imprisonment for the ex-Kigali-Ville prefect, Tharcisse Renzaho.

Gatete gets life imprisonment

The first judgment in the past six months was that of former high ranking civil servant, Jean-Baptiste Gatete handed down on March 29, 2011. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide and extermination as crimes against humanity.

During the 1994 Rwandan killing spree, Gatete was Director in the Ministry of Family and Women Affairs, then under Minister Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, herself genocide-convict.

The Chamber presided by Judge Khalida Khan found beyond reasonable doubt that Gatete was responsible for deaths of hundreds, and possibly thousands of Tutsis at three different massacre sites in Eastern Rwanda between April 7 and 12, 1994.

Conviction of two generals  

In less than two months the Tribunal delivered yet another judgment but this time around was a joint case of four ex-Rwandan military officers popularly known as ‘'Military II Trial'' which included two generals. The judgments was handed down  on May 17, 2011.

The Generals convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are, Augustin Bizimungu, former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army, who would remain behind bars for 30 years and that of Gendarmerie Nationale, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, who was released immediately after being sentenced to the time served since his arrest on January 29, 2000.

The Chamber found the generals guilty as superiors for failing to prevent or punish those who participated in the killings at St. Andre College, Josephite Brohers compound, Musambira commune office and dispensary, ESI and TRAFIPRO between April and May 1994.   

The judgment also saw two co-accused,  Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, Commander of Reconnaissance Battalion (RECC) and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, a member of the unity, both convicted of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The duo was convicted for their role in the death of the then Rwandan Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana and her ten Belgian body guards and United Nations Peacekeepers in Rwanda on April 7, 1994. Both were sentenced to 20 years imprisonment each.

The only woman convicted for genocide and rape by UN Tribunal

The number of convicts increased after each judgment. On June 24, 2011, the Tribunal came up with the most awaited judgment popularly in the case known as the ‘'Butare Trial'. It is the largest and longest ever to be tried by ICTR involving six genocide-accused from Butare prefecture, South Rwanda. The accused included Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Rwandan minister of Family and Women Affairs. She is the only woman in the history of the Tribunal to be prosecuted for genocide.

Nyiramasuhuko, her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali  who was tried alongside his mother and former Mayor, Elie Ndayambaje were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. Apart from the trio being convicted for genocide and crimes against humanity among others, Nyiramasuhuko and her son were also convicted of rapes.

‘'Both Nyiramasuhuko and Ntahobali ordered killings. They also ordered rapes. Ntahobali further committed rapes, and Nyiramasuhuko aided and abetted rapes and is responsible as a superior for rapes committed by members of Interahamwe (militiamen),'' the verdict elaborates.

The other convicts in this case are two former prefects, Alphonse Nteziryayo sentenced to 30 years whereas Sylvain Nsabimana got 25 years jail term. Another former Mayor, Joseph Kanyabashi would serve imprisonment of 35 years, according to the judgment.

The arrest of Interahamwe

It is also worth noting that during the period in question the number of genocide-fugitives went down by one from the wanted 10 following the arrest of Bernard Munyagishari, the alleged leader of Interahamwe militias in Gisenyi prefecture, North Rwanda.

Munyagishari was apprehended in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on May 25, 2011 and was transferred to the seat of the Tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania two weeks later.

The latest accused made his initial appearance on June 6, 2011 and denied charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

And in late June, 2011 ICTR made historic decision to transfer one of its cases to the Rwandan judiciary for prosecution. The case involves Pastor Jean Uwinkindi of the Pentecostal Church in the eastern part of Rwanda. The Pastor lodged an appeal against the decision.


© Hirondelle News Agency