Arusha, September 29, 2014 (FH) – The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday confirmed life sentences for two men who were top leaders of Rwanda’s former presidential party MRND during the 1994 genocide.

1 min 10Approximate reading time

Matthieu Ngirumpatse was MRND president, while Edouard Karemera was vice-president. The MRND was the party of former Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, whose assassination on April 6, 1994 triggered the genocide.

Presiding judge Theodor Meron said Ngirumpatse and Karemera would remain in ICTR custody pending a decision on where they will serve their sentences.  The Appeals Chamber cancelled some of the lower court’s conclusions but confirmed the guilty verdict on the two men for genocide and crimes against humanity committed across Rwanda in 1994 by members of their party, especially the notorious MRND Interahamwe militia.

Addressing the court during appeals hearings in February, Ngirumpatse’s defence lawyer Frédéric Weyl argued that the former MRND president had “no authority” over party members or government ministers in office during the genocide.

Félix Sow, one of Karemera’s two Senegalese lawyers, argued along similar lines. He also called on the appeals court to “overturn all the convictions”.

Ugandan prosecutor George Mugwanya told the court that the two men had a common agenda to kill Tutsis. He said that they had abused their positions within the MRND as part of a joint criminal enterprise.

The trial started in November 2003 but was subject to many delays, owing mainly to Ngirumpatse’s health problems.

The two MRND leaders initially went on trial with the party’s former secretary general Joseph Nzirorera and former Education Minister André Rwamakuba, who was a member of an opposition party to President Habyarimana.

But Rwamakuba’s case was finally separated and he was acquitted on September 20, 2006. Nzirorera died of illness on June 1, 2010, when his trial was near the end of the defence stage.