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Former Rwandan minister sentenced to 35 years on genocide charges

December 20, 2012|By Emily Alpert
  • Former Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware, right, sits next to his lawyer Cecil John Maruma during his first appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania.
Former Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware, right, sits… (Ephrem Ruguririza / AFP/Getty…)

A former Rwandan minister was sentenced Thursday to 35 years in jail for crimes tied to the nation's brutal genocide, including handing out machetes to a Hutu militia and spurring them to kill Tutsis.

Witnesses described Augustin Ngirabatware as being tantamount to a god in the stretches of Rwanda where he exhorted members of a Hutu militia to wipe out Tutsis, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said in its judgment. He was Rwanda's planning minister during the 1994 genocide, when hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and sympathetic Hutus were slain.

On one April day in 1994, Ngirabatware unloaded machetes and other weapons at roadblocks, explaining “he did not want to see any Tutsis alive” in the area, the tribunal found. In another, earlier speech, he “unambiguously called for genocide,” exhorting a crowd of 150 to 200 people to kill Tutsis.

As the Tutsis came under attack, two Hutu militiamen abducted and repeatedly raped a Tutsi woman at nearby banana plantations, according to the tribunal judgment. Ngirabatware was found guilty of the rape, a crime against humanity, because he was part of “a joint criminal enterprise” with the men and it was “foreseeable” that some would resort to rape, the court said.

The former minister denied the accusations and claimed he was out of the country during the attacks, but failed to convince the tribunal that he was gone the entire time. He was arrested five years ago in Germany, more than a decade after the Rwandan bloodshed.

Ngirabatware, 55, was the last suspect to be judged by the tribunal, which was created by the United Nations Security Council to prosecute those accused of involvement in the bloody crimes of 1994. As his trial comes to a close, the tribunal has only appeals left to weigh before its dissolution in 2014.

The judgment “marks a historic occasion and important milestone in the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,” said Justice Hassan B. Jallow, its chief prosecutor. He hoped that through its work, tribunal had “made a difference … in ensuring accountability for those who played a leading role in the tragedy.”

Sixty-three people have been convicted since the Tanzania-based tribunal was established, a feat accomplished with the help of more than 3,000 witnesses and 21 governments, Jallow said in a statement Thursday. Nine fugitives remain, including the Rwandan businessman Felicien Kabuga, who is Ngirabatware's father-in-law.

Even after the court is closed, “the search for these fugitives will continue and will not cease until they are found and until they are brought to account,” Jallow said.

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