18 February 2014

Rwanda: German Court Sentences Rwandan Ex-Mayor On Genocide Charges

Photo: United Nations
Rwandan children, refugees of the 1994 genocide.

A German court has sentenced a former mayor to 14 years in prison for his role in the Rwandan genocide. It was the first trial connected with the genocide to have taken place in Germany.

On Tuesday, a court in the central German city of Frankfurt sentenced the former mayor of Kiziguro in Rwanda to 14 years' imprisonment for complicity in genocide.

The 56-year-old ex-mayor, Onesphore Rwabukombe, was charged with having incited the April 11, 1994, massacre of hundreds of ethnic Tutsis who had sought refuge in a church in Kiziguro. Only a few survived.

The state prosecutor had called for a life sentence and relied mainly on witness accounts as there are no written records of the crime.

Defense lawyers pleaded for acquittal, citing contradictory testimony from witnesses. Rwabukombe denied the charges, and his lawyers are likely to appeal.

It is the first time a trial has been held in Germany in connection with the Rwandan genocide. Rwabukombe came to the country in 2002 and was granted asylum. He has been in detention awaiting trial since July 2010.

Because of their serious nature, crimes of genocide can be prosecuted anywhere in the world under universal jurisdiction.

In 1994, the Rwandan genocide claimed the lives of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, who were killed by some members of the country's Hutu majority.

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