1 February 2013

Rwanda: Appeals Judgment Monday for Two Former Ministers

Photo: United Nations
Rwandan children, refugees of the 1994 genocide (file photo).

Arusha — The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is set to hand down its judgment Monday in the trial of two former ministers, both sentenced by the lower court to 30 years in jail.

This will be the first hearing of 2013 at the ICTR, which has until the end of next year to finish all its work.

Justin Mugenzi was Minister of Trade during the 1994 genocide, while Prosper Mugiraneza was Public Service Minister. On September 30, 2011, both men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. The reason: their presence at two key meetings in April 1994.

Their colleagues Casimir Bizimungu, ex-Minister of Health, and Jérôme Bicamumpaka, ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, were acquitted because they were not present at these two meetings.

At the appeals hearing at the beginning of October 2012, Mugenzi and Mugiraneza once again pleaded their innocence and asked the judges to set them free. Their two former co-accused, whose acquittal the Prosecutor did not contest, attended the hearing sitting in the public gallery.

Central to the trial are a cabinet meeting held on April 17, 1994, in Gitarama (central Rwanda), and an investiture ceremony two days later for a new prefect of Butare, in southern Rwanda. The cabinet had decided to sack the Tutsi prefect of Butare, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana, who was considered the last obstacle to the genocide in his prefecture. His removal was announced publicly the next day in a stadium in Butare, in the presence of government ministers and other civil and military leaders.

After he was removed from office, the prefect Habyarimana was killed and massacres, which had so far been limited, became widespread and systematic in Butare prefecture.

The judges of the lower court accepted the prosecutor's argument that through their presence, Mugenzi and Mugiraneza participated in a conspiracy to commit genocide and were guilty of incitement to genocide through approving, even tacitly, the incendiary speech delivered in Butare on April 19, 1994, by the interim president Théodore Sindikubwabo. Sindikubwabo is thought to have died in exile in former Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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