Arusha, December 21, 2011 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Wednesday sentenced to life imprisonment two former top Rwandan politicians, Matthieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera, for their role in the implementation of the 1994 Tutsi genocide. The two were held responsible as senior officials for crimes committed by members of their party, notably its Interahamwe youth wing.

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Judges convicted Ngirumpatse and Karemera, who were respectively President and Vice-President of the former ruling party MRND, of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Those crimes include rape and sexual violence perpetrated throughout the country. The Chamber concluded that rape and sexual violence constituted acts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

"Having considered the gravity of the crimes for which Karemera has been convicted, as well as all the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, the Chamber unanimously sentences Edouard Karemera to life imprisonment," presiding Judge Denis Byron pronounced, repeating the same words for Matthieu Ngirumpatse.

On April 11 and 12, 1994, the Chamber noted, the accused met with senior officials of the interim government at Hôtel des Diplomates, where weapons were distributed to the Interahamwe militia, and from that date the joint criminal enterprise began to incorporate government officials, politicians, Interahamwe leaders and influential businessmen.

According to the judgment, Karemera and Ngirumpatse had authority and effective control over Interahamwe, who participated in attacks on Tutsi civilians throughout the genocide, and failed to punish them. They also had authority over personnel such as Colonel Théoneste Bagosora in ministries controlled by the MRND, such as the Ministry of Defence,  the court said.

The Chamber found that the two convicts conspired with the interim government to adopt a policy of genocide, which they executed primarily through their Civil Defence Plan, a thinly veiled strategy for extermination of Tutsis.

Furthermore, it said that as of May 25, 1994, Karemera had authority and effective control over civilians who participated in the Civil Defence Programme and local officials who were part of the territorial administration.

"Keremera and Ngirumpatse failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent their subordinates from further killing Tutsis and to punish them for committing these further killings. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of unarmed men, women and children were killed as a direct result of policies of the Interim Government," the judge said.

According to the Chamber, the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt that Tutsi women and girls were raped, mutilated and sexually assaulted by Interahamwe, other militias, soldiers and civilians on a large scale in various places in Rwanda, as part of a widespread and systematic attack that intended to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group.

The judges noted that the accused took no action to prevent Interahamwe from raping or to punish the perpetrators.

"Accordingly, the Chamber finds that Karemera and Ngirumpatse are liable for the rapes and sexual assaults against Tutsi women and girls," the judges ruled.

Ngirumpatse was born in 1939 in Ntare commune, Kigali Rural prefecture, and trained as a lawyer. He was President of the MRND party in 1994 and had been a member of its steering committee since 1993. Ngirumpatse was arrested in Mali on June 11, 1998, and transferred to the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, a month later.

Karemera was born in Mwendo commune, Kibuye prefecture, in 1951 and also trained as a lawyer. Like his co-accused, he held various senior positions, including Minister of Interior in the interim government in place during the genocide. He was arrested in Togo on June 5, 1998 and transferred to the UN Tribunal on July 10, 1998.

Their trial began in November 2003. The prosecution fielded 46 witnesses, of whom 30 appeared in court and 16 gave written evidence. The defence called a total of 74 witnesses, of whom 35 for Karemera and 39 for Ngirumpatse, including the defendants themselves.

Throughout their defence, Karemera and Ngirumpatse strongly denied that either they or their MRND party had the power to control the Interahamwe militia.


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