Arusha, October 9, 2012 (FH) – The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Tuesday reduced to 40 years jail term the life imprisonment sentence imposed by the lower court to former senior Rwandan government official, Jean-Baptiste Gatete, for his role in the 1994 Tutsi genocide.

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It affirmed the conviction for Gatete, ex-Director in the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs, of genocide and extermination, as a crime against humanity entered against him by Trial Chamber on March 29, 2011, but reduced the sentence after granting some of his grounds of appeal.

“The Appeals Chamber sets aside the sentence of life imprisonment imposed on Jean-Baptiste Gatete and imposes a sentence of 40 years of imprisonment, subject to credit being given under Rules for the period he has already spent in detention since his arrest on September 11, 2002,” presiding Judge Liu Daqun said.

Gatete, dressed in a cream western suit, appeared composed as the judgment was being read. The reduction of the sentence was a result of violation of his right to be tried without undue delay. Gatete was arrested on September 11, 2002 in Congo-Brazzaville, but his trial started on October 20, 2009 before the Tribunal, seven years later.

The lower court had found the then Rwandan senior official responsible for orderin, aiding and abetting killings of Tutsis in three locations in the prefectures of Byumba and Kibungo, eastern Rwanda, in 1994.

On April 7, 1994, there were Tutsi massacres in Rwankuba sector, while other killings occurred on April 11, 1994 at Kiziguro parish, in Murambi Commune. On April 12, 1994, Tutsis were killed at Mukarange parish, in Kayonza Commune, in Kubungo prefecfure. For these crimes, Gatete was convicted of genocide and crime against humanity.

Although he was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide in relation to the events, the lower court dismissed the count because it was based on same facts with that of genocide. The prosecution was aggrieved by such findings and lodged an appeal, claiming that the Trial Chamber had committed an error.

In its judgment, the Appeals Chamber agreed with prosecution and convicted Gatete of the offence to hold him responsible for the totality of his criminal conduct. Since the prosecution had not sought any increase of punishment for additional conviction, the judges declined to consider any potential impact on sentencing.