A trial chamber of the United Nations war crimes tribunal set up in the wake of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda today sentenced a former government minister, Augustin Ngirabatware, to 35 years imprisonment for genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and rape as a crime against humanity.
According to a news release from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the court's Trial Chamber II found that Mr. Ngirabatware - then serving as Rwanda's Minister of Planning - directly and publicly incited the killing of Tutsis at the Cyanika-Gisa roadblock in February 1994.
It further found that Mr. Ngirabatware instigated and aided and abetted the attacks and killings of Tutsis in April 1994 in the Nyamyumba commune through his words and actions in distributing weapons at two roadblocks there. At least some of these weapons were used by the Hutu Interahamwe militia to kill Tutsis.
The chamber also found Mr. Ngirabatware guilty of participating in a joint criminal enterprise, which was in existence by 7 April 1994, and whose members shared the common purpose of destroying, in whole or in part, the Tutsi ethnic group, and exterminating the Tutsi civilian population in the Nyamyumba commune. In addition, the chamber found Mr. Ngirabatware guilty for committing - through this joint criminal enterprise in the extended form - the repeated rapes of a Tutsi woman.
Mr. Ngirabatware was arrested in September 2007 in Germany, and transferred to the court in October 2009. His trial opened in September 2009.
Based in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha, the ICTR was set up after the Rwandan genocide, when at least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed during three months of bloodletting that followed the deaths of then Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana, and his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira, when their plane was brought down over the Rwandan capital, Kigali, on 6 April 1994.
In a statement issued after the verdict, the ICTR's Chief Prosecutor, Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow, said that the delivery of today's judgement in this case marks a historic occasion and important mile stone in the work of the tribunal.
"For today the Tribunal has completed the trial phase of its mandate," he said. "Established by the UN Security Council by resolution 955 of 1994 with the mandate to prosecute persons responsible for genocide and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Rwanda in 1994, the ICTR has over the past eighteen years of its operations indicted 93 persons for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes."
He noted that of those indicted, 83 have been arrested with 75 of them prosecuted to judgement; 65 of those tried were found guilty and convicted, nine of them on their guilty pleas. Ten of the accused have been acquitted, while three died after indictment. The cases of ten of the accused were referred to national jurisdictions for trial, including six of the remaining nine fugitives, while two indictments were withdrawn.
"It has taken considerable effort, dedication and diligence by several parties for this outcome, amongst them the governments and law enforcement authorities of some 21 countries which have cooperated in ensuring the arrest and transfer of s to the tribunal for trial; over three thousand witnesses from several countries who have despite many challenges, testified in order to assist the tribunal arrive at the truth and render justice," Justice Jallow said.
The ICTR is expected to conclude its work by the end of 2014. The UN Security Council set up the so-called International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) in December 2010 and mandated it to take over and finish the remaining tasks of the ICTR - and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) - when they are closed after their mandates expire. The ICTR branch of the Residual Mechanism began its functions on 1 July.
The Chief Prosecutor said that "some important" work still remains to be done at the ICTR - mainly in the management of the remaining appeal cases as well as management of legacy and closure related issues.
"We are confident that these tasks too can be completed before the end of 2014 as stipulated by the UN Security Council," he said. "The conclusion of the work of this phase of the ICTR or its final closure will not affect the tracking of the remaining fugitives whose cases have now been transferred to the Residual Mechanism."
He added, "The search for these fugitives will continue and will not cease and until they are found and until they are brought to account before the Mechanism or before an appropriate national jurisdiction for trial."