28 April 2005

Rwanda: UN Tribunal Sentences Ex-Civic Leader to Life in Prison

Arusha — The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentenced on Thursday a former Rwandan civic leader, Mika Muhimana, to life imprisonment for his role in the 1994 genocide in the central African country.

"His crimes rank among the gravest and deserve a heavy sentence," Khalida Khan, the presiding judge, said as she read out the court's decision.

Muhimana, 44, was found guilty of direct involvement in the murder and rape of Tutsi women during the genocide.

"The accused personally targeted Tutsi civilians by shooting and raping Tutsi victims," Khan said.

She added that instead of using his position to bring peace and reconciliation, Muhimana actually participated in "these awful acts".

Muhimana was a councillor in 1994 for Gishyita Commune in Rwanda's western province of Kibuye.

Khan said, "Muhimana raped several women, some several times, in his home, in churches and in hospitals."

She recounted how, in one incident, Muhimana had used a machete to hack off the breast of a heavily pregnant woman before splitting her open from the chest down to her private parts.

"The baby cried out for a few minutes before dying," Khan said.

The life sentence imposed on Muhimana is the highest possible under the UN statute.

A senior prosecutor, Charles Adeogun Philips, said he was pleased with the sentence, and that Muhimana deserved "the highest penalty for his cruel deeds".

Muhimana's defence team did not indicate whether or not they would appeal against the sentence.

The tribunal has so far handed down 25 judgments, including three acquittals. Trials are ongoing for 25 suspects of the genocide, in which up to 937,000 people were killed, according to official Rwandan estimates.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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