Arusha, May 8, 2012 (FH) – The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday cut the sentence of former Rwandan military officer Aloys Ntabakuze from life to 35 years in jail. Ntabakuze was head of the elite para-commando unit of the Rwandan army during the 1994 genocide.

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The judgment was read out in Arusha by the president of the Appeals Chamber, American judge Theodor Meron.

On December 18, 2008, the ICTR found Ntabakuze guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in April 1994 by elements of his unit and militiamen in three areas of the capital Kigali, because of his superior responsibility over them.

The Appeals Chamber invalidated the finding of the lower court in relation to the crimes committed by militiamen, saying Ntabakuze had not been properly informed in his indictment that he was being prosecuted for alleged command control over them.

The Appeals Chamber also annulled the guilty finding for crimes committed by elements of his unit on Kabeza hill. The Appeals judges concluded that the authors of the Kabeza crimes were not necessarily under Ntabakuze's control. In effect, certain para-commandos were detached to the Presidential Guard of former president Juvénal Habyarimana and were therefore not under Ntabakuze's authority.

In the lower court Ntabakuze was jointly tried with Théoneste Bagosora, the former Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, and Anatole Nsengiyumva, who was head of military operations in the Gisenyi region of northwest Rwanda. They were all sentenced to life imprisonment.

However, following the absence of Ntabakuze's lawyer from the Appeals hearing on March 30, 2011, his appeal was separated from the others. His Appeals hearing took place on September 27, 2011.