Two politicians jailed for life over Rwandan genocide

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), supported by the United Nations, has convicted two Rwandan politicians in relation to the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

The court has sentenced then-National Revolutionary Movement for Development (NRMD) chairman Matthieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera — at that time, Ngirumpatse's deputy — to life imprisonment having found them guilty over their involvement in a variety of crimes including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, for failing to stop or punish crimes such as rape and murder committed by the youth militia of their party, the Interahamwe, in 1994.

Hutus considered to have extremist views reportedly murdered 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates in the space of one hundred days, between April and July 1994. The ICTR determined that "the rapes and the sexual crimes carried out on Tutsi girls and women by soldiers and militia, including the Interahamwe, are a natural and predictable consequence of the joint criminal enterprise seeking to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group" before "unanimously condemn[ing] Ngirumpatse to life in jail" and subsequently providing a similar punishment to Karemera. Joseph Nzirorera, a third man accused alongside Ngirumpatse and Karemera, died while the trial was underway.

The ICTR found Ngirumpatse had approved weapons distribution amongst the Interahamwe in April 1994. "At that point in the genocide", the ICTR panel stated, "it could be assumed the weapons were going to be used to kill Tutsis".

The ICTR were set up in the city of Arusha in Tanzania with the specific purpose of trying those accused of being most responsible for the crimes relating to the Rwandan genocide. Recently, Theoneste Bagosora — suspected of being amongst those of highest responsibility in the Rwandan genocide — had his life imprisonment punishment reversed by appeal judges at the ICTR and reduced to a 35 year prison sentence. BBC News Online reported anger amongst some Rwandans over this decision for the chief of staff of the defence ministry at the time.