Rwandan convicted of genocide

[TamilNet, Saturday, 20 December 2008, 00:27 GMT]
A senior Rwandan military officer charged with being one of the masterminds of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda was convicted on Thursday by a United Nations court in Tanzania of genocide and sentenced to life in prison. The court used the doctrine of "command responsibility," to convict the "highest authority in the Rwandan Defense Ministry," and also found him "guilty in connection with the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers by soldiers at Camp Kigali, and in the organized killings by soldiers and militiamen," International Herald Tribune reported.

Excerpts from IHT article follows:

Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, 67, is the most senior military official to have been convicted in connection with the genocide, in which bands of Hutu massacred 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu. He was a leading Hutu extremist and the cabinet director for Rwanda's Defense Ministry at the start of the slaughter. He and three other senior army officers had been on trial since 2002 at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania.

In a statement, the United Nations tribunal said it had sentenced Bagosora and two other Rwandan military officers who were also on trial, Major Aloys Ntabakuze and Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, to life imprisonment for "genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes." A fourth co-defendant, General Gratien Kabiligi, was acquitted of all charges and released by the court. The court said Bagosora was "the highest authority in the Rwandan Defense Ministry, with authority over the military" in the days after the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994.

Bagosora was also found guilty in connection with the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers by soldiers at Camp Kigali, and in the organized killings by soldiers and militiamen throughout Kigali and Gisenyi, in the west of the country.

However, the court cleared Bagosora and the others on trial of conspiring to commit genocide before April 7, 1994. The trial lasted six years, during which 242 witnesses were heard.

Human rights officials hailed the conviction of Bagosora, calling it a strike against impunity but also a reminder to anyone committing atrocities in armed conflict. It has particular resonance for the belligerents spawning chaos in eastern Congo, said Paul van Zyl of the International Center for Transitional Justice, a rights group based in New York.

"The conviction should send a signal to all people with ongoing responsibility for atrocities in Congo," he said. "If they are in effective control of armed forces, whether they are state troops, a rebel group or guerrillas, they are potentially criminally liable."

 

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