16 November 2007

Rwanda: Former Mayor Sentenced to 11 Years in Prison

Arusha — The main event of the week at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was the judgment of the former mayor of Bicumbi, Juvénal Rugambarara, sentenced Friday to 11 years in prison.

Rugambarara had pleaded guilty last July to the crime of extermination for not having taken necessary and reasonable measures in order to punish his subordinates implicated in massacres of Tutsis between 7 and 20 April 1994.

In the determination of the sentence, the chamber presided by the Sri Lankian Joseph Asoka de Silva considered the gravity of the crime but also a certain number of extenuating circumstances.

Among these, the judges took into account the sincerity of remorse expressed by the defendant, the assistance which he brought to Tutsis during the genocide, his good behaviour in the ICTR detention center, his good morality before 1994 and the existence of tensions which did not allow him to fully exert his authority during the genocide.

No judgment had been delivered for 8 months at the ICTR. No new trial either has started for five months. Since it was created in 1994, the ICTR has tried 34 persons.

For the sixth time in the history of the tribunal, a chamber went this week to the area of the alleged facts. It was in the trial of Protais Zigiranyirazo, brother-in-law of the former President Juvénal Habyarimana. The case will continue next week at the ICTR with the continuation of defence testimonies.

During the week, three trials were on going at the tribunal.

The Butare case, in which six defendants are involved, including the former Minister for the Family and Women's Development, Pauline Nyiramasuhuk, continued with the witnesses of the defence for Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Ngoma. He notably called his wife and a brother-in-law of the latter.

In the trial of the leaders of the former presidential party, the MRND, a witness for the prosecution, known by the pseudonym AWD, evoked the song Tubatsematsembe (Let Us Exterminate Them) that the Interahamwe militiamen chanted before and during the 1994 genocide. The witness affirmed that this song, with a martial tone, constitutes a call for the extermination of Tutsis even if the word Tutsi does not appear anywhere in the text. The American Peter Robinson, who defends Joseph Nzirorera, former secretary-general of the MRND, suggested to the witness that it is nothing more that a battle chant like the French national anthem, the Marseillaise, of which he read stanzas in session.

In another courtroom, the former chief of staff of the Rwandan army, General Augustin Bizimungu, continued his defence. He called a woman who denied that he treated Tutsis, in 1993, as nettles to be uprooted. Prosecuted for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the General has pleaded not guilty. He is on trial alongside the former chief of staff of the national gendarmerie, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former commander of the recognition battalion, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who commanded a squadron of this elite unit.

These trials will continue next week.

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