While Casimir Bizimungu and Jérôme Bicamunpaka were acquitted, Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza were convicted on only two out of six counts: their presence at two crucial meetings in Butare on April 17 and 19, 1994, for which the court found them guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide, as well as direct and public incitement to commit genocide. They received a 30-year jail term.
On April 17 1994, the Interim Government dismissed Butare's Tutsi Prefect, Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana, and organized the inauguration of his Hutu successor two days later.
"The Chamber has concluded that Habyalimana's dismissal, agreed upon by Mugenzi and Mugiraneza, was intended to undermine the real and symbolic resistance Habyalimana opposed to the genocide in Butare. While killings occurred in Butare prior to this decision, they appear to have remained localized near Gikongoro prefecture (...) Under Habyalimana's leadership, Butare, a location known for its inter-ethnic tolerance, had remained generally peaceful", reads part of the judgment summary.
The Chamber also stated that this event could not be "evaluated separately from the inauguration of Habyalimana's replacement in Butare two days later".
"Several Interim Government ministers who agreed to Habyalimana's dismissal, including Mugenzi and Mugiraneza, attended [the April 19th ceremony]. Mugenzi and Prime Minister Kambanda addressed the attendees. With the appearance of a unified Interim Government behind him, [interim President] Sindikubwabo gave an inflammatory speech while removing the region's Tutsi prefect. He accused Butare residents of indifference towards the war, although fighting had not yet reached the prefecture. He demanded that listeners needed to "work", a term used as an instruction to "kill" during the genocide", the Chamber wrote.
The judgment summary concludes that "the presence of Mugenzi and Mugiraneza at the installation ceremony offered significant and substantial moral encouragement to Sindikubwabo as he incited to the killing of Tutsis".
Dismissed, Jean-Baptiste Habyalimana was sent to jail and subsequently killed.
Bizimungu and Bicamunpaka were acquitted as they did not attend the meetings. "The Chamber has not found that Bizimungu and Bicamumpaka can be held liable for these events. They played no role in Habyalimana's dismissal or in the subsequent inauguration ceremony for his replacement", the Chamber noted.
The four ex-ministers were jointly charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity (murder, extermination and rape) and war crimes. During the 1994 genocide, Bizimungu was Minister of Health, Bicamumpaka of Foreign Affairs, Mugiraneza of the Civil Service and Mugenzi of Trade.
Delivery of their judgment comes 12 years after the accused were arrested and nearly eight years after their trial began.
Following the sentence, Mugenzi and Mugiraneza returned to jail while the two men acquitted were immediately released. They are currently in a safe house in Arusha, waiting to find a host country.
© Hirondelle News Agency