Captain Ildephonse Nizeyimana,who was recently sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the 1994 genocide, is the last ex-Rwandan military officer to be tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as it approaches to complete its mandate.
The UN-backed Tribunal was created in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council to prosecute key perpetrators of the Rwandan slaughter for the purpose of contributing to the process of national reconciliation in Rwanda and to the maintenance of peace in the region. There are two other former members of the Rwandan army, who are still on the run that were indicted by ICTR.
They are former Commander of Presidential Guard, Major Protais Mpiranya and Pheneas Munyarugarama, a Lieutenant Colonel, who served as Commander of Gako Camp in Kanzenze Commune, Kigali Rural prefecture. However, if the two fugitives were to be arrested, their respective cases could be heard by either the International Residual Mechanism (IRM) for Criminal Tribunals or national jurisdiction, particularly Rwanda.
The International Residual Mechanism is due to take over essential functions of ICTR and that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) upon their closure. For Arusha branch, the IRM is due to start its operation on July 1, 2012, while that of ICTY will commence a year later.
Already the ICTR has completed receiving evidence in the so called "special deposition proceedings" in the case of Mpiranya with a purpose of preserving such evidence from both the prosecution and defence that will be used in future in case the suspect is arrested. The Special deposition proceedings, in international criminal justice, are normally conducted for fear that some of the evidence may be lost or some of the witnesses could die and may not be made available at the time the suspect is arrested.
Regarding the case of Munyarugarama, the prosecutor of ICTR, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, has already filed an application, requesting the judges to refer the matter to Rwandan judiciary for trial and another arrest warrant so that if arrested he should taken to Rwanda for prosecution. Nizeyimana was born on October 5, 1963 in Mutura Commune, Gisenyi prefecture in Northwest Rwanda from a family of Athanase Masiha, his father and Madeleine Mashavu, his mother.
He is married to Donatha Mutezimana. The information about where he went for his secondary education after completing primary school is contradictory. According to certain sources, he studied first at Inyemeramihigo College in Gisenyi, North Rwanda and then at the Musanze School of Sciences in Ruhengeri, also in the North. But according to other reports, he went to Christ Roi College in Nyanza, Butare prefecture in South Rwanda. Some of his college mates describe him as a hard worker but also bright in all subjects.
His former schoolmates allege that even while at secondary school Nizeyimana manifested regionalism and ethnic discrimination and allegedly looked down on the only Tutsi student in their class. He likes football, but when at the playing field he was wearing military boots and his colleagues feared to approach him. They say he finished top of their year in July 1983. The same year he went to the Senior Military Academy (ESM) in Kigali where he was part of its 24th intake.
It is said that the ESM was a prestigious school at the time and some people used to say that those who went there were bound to be rich. Before completing at ESM, Nizeyimana obtained a scholarship to study in Germany and on his return, he went directly to work at the Non-Commissioned Officers School (ESO) in Butare town, Southern Rwanda. While at ESO, it is alleged that Nizeyimana had a reputation for political extremism, arrogance, strong favouritism towards people from northern Rwanda with marked bias against Tutsis.
It is further alleged that Nizeyimana was a high ranking officer at ESO, holding a second in command position at the military academy, being in charge of intelligence and military operations. The prosecution has indicted him for, among others, ordering the murder of Rosalie Gicanda, the last Tutsi queen of Rwanda. He fled Rwanda in July 1994 to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Between July 1994 and November 1996, Nizeyimana lived in Kashusha refugee camp in South Kivu.
After the dismantle of the camp in 1996, he and other ex-Rwandan military figures formed an Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR) and later changed the group's name into Democratic Forces for Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), where he allegedly held a rank of Lieutenant Colonel. After experiencing difficult life, Nizeyimana left for the eastern town of Goma, where he reportedly ran a small business of a local brew bar.
But later he decide to leave for Nairobi, Kenya, via Uganda but on his way, without knowing the Interpol were tracking him, he was arrested in a hotel in Uganda on October 5, 2009. He was transferred to the UN Detention facility in Arusha , Tanzania the following day, where he met his colleagues, including his namesake, Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana, the former in charge of the small military camp of Ngoma, in Butare, popularly known as scholar's town.
Hategekimana is currently serving life imprisonment sentence for his role in the 1994 Tutsi genocide. Late American historian Alison des Forges writes in her book Leave None to Tell the Story, published in 1999 that "at the start of massacres, the Ngoma camp, the ESO divided responsibility for the area around the town of Butare, with leadership in the hands of Nizeyimana and Hategekimana."
The book quotes one witness as saying that Nizeyimana played more of a role in the first days by allegedly committing massacres, with the ESO soldiers in the central part of the town. He then ceded to Hategekimana, who together with his troops allegedly executed killings in the southern part of the region. However, it is reported that some of his former colleagues describe Nizeyimana that he was afraid of war. They say that during the 1990-94 war, he often pretended to be suffering from heart problems which were regarded as a pretext for avoiding going to the front.
Nizeyimana, alias Sebisogo, an average tall man with a slim body, who normally dresses in western suit and looks composed while in court was, on June 19, 2012, convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination and murder) and war crimes (murder). But his lawyer said he would appeal the judgment.
Apart from Nizeyimana, 14 other ex-members of the Rwandan armed forces were indicted by ICTR for their role in the 1994 genocide. All of them, except one, Brigadier General Gratien Kabiligi, have been convicted by the Tribunal in the first instance and given different jail terms. Kabiligi was chief of operations in the army in Rwanda during genocide.