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Rwanda: ICTR Convicts Former High Ranking Rwandan Officers

(May 20, 2011) On May 17, 2011, the Tanzania-based International Criminal Court for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted four former high-ranking officers in the Rwandan army and police: Augustin Bizimungu (former chief of staff of the Rwandan Army), Augustin Ndindiliyimana (former chief of staff of Gendarmerie nationale, a force that replaced the Rwandan police as the enforcer of public order as of 1973), Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye (former commander of the reconnaissance battalion in the Rwandan army), and Innocent Sagahutu (former deputy to Nzuwonemeye), for crimes they perpetrated during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. (Former Rwandan Military Chiefs Guilty of Genocide, REUTERS (May 17, 2011); see also United Nations, The Prosecutor vs. Augustin Bizimungu, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, Fran├žois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, Innocent Sagahutu: Amended Indictment, ICTR website (Aug. 23, 2004).)

The prosecutor brought several charges against Bizimungu and Ndindiliyimana, including crimes against humanity, genocide, and conspiracy to commit genocide. The ICTR did not convict on all the charges alleged against the two defendants and took account of some extenuating circumstances in sentencing Ndindiliyimana. (United Nations, supra.) The ICTR convicted Bizimungu on six counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of articles of the Geneva Conventions and Ndindiliyimana on the crimes against humanity charge. (Rwanda: UN Genocide Tribunal Sentences Former Army Chief to 30 Years' Jail, UN NEWS CENTRE (May 17, 2011); REUTERS, supra.) The Court, however, dismissed the conspiracy to commit genocide charge against both defendants, because the charge relied entirely on circumstantial evidence. (Id.) WhileBizimungu was sentenced to a 30-year prison term, the Court ordered the immediate release of Ndindiliyimana, based on the time he served since his arrest in 2000, citing the limited authority he had had over the police, his consistent support for reconciliation before 1994, and his opposition to the 1994 massacres. (Id.)

The prosecutor made similar charges against Nzuwonemeye and his deputy. Although the ICTR dismissed the conspiracy charge, just as in the cases of Bizimungu and Ndindiliyimana, it convicted on other charges and sentenced both men to 20-year prison terms. (United Nations, supra.)

The ICTR was created on November 8, 1994, via a United Nations Security Council resolution, with a mandate to prosecute the individuals who perpetrated the genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law in Rwanda and neighboring countries from January 1 to December 31, 1994. (General Information, ICTR website (last visited May 17, 2011).) Located in Arusha, Tanzania, the ICTR is made up of three organs: the Chambers and the Appeals Chamber, the Office of the Prosecutor (tasked with investigations and prosecutions), and the Registry (tasked with providing judicial and administrative support to the other organs). (Id.) Not counting the above-discussed cases, the ICTR has thus far issued decisions in 32 cases since its inception. (Id.)