Rwanda genocide tribunal formally closes

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) formally closed Dec. 31 after issuing 45 judgments. The ICTR, established in 1994, was the first international tribunal to deliver verdicts against those guilty of committing genocide. Within its 21 years, the ICTR sentenced 61 to terms of up to life imprisonment for their roles in the Rwanda massacres. There were 14 acquittals, and 10 accused were transferred to national courts. An International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals has been established and eight fugitives remain at large.

In September a court in Toulouse, France, refused extradition requests for Joseph Habyarimana, a Rwandan man, facing charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. Last January two Rwandan police officers were sentenced to 20 years in jail for the murder of a Transparency International anti-corruption activist. In July 2014 the ICTR unanimously affirmed a 30-year prison sentence for former army chief Augustin Bizimungu for the role he played in the genocide. In December 2012 the ICTR convicted former Rwandan minister Augustin Ngirabatware, sentencing him to 35 years in prison on charges of genocide, incitement to commit genocide and rape as a crime against humanity.

From Jurist, Jan. 3. Used with permission.

Note: In addition to the ICTR, the Rwandan government also organized the village-based Gacaca courts. Some 12,000 of these courts heard over 1.9 million cases before they were closed in 2012. In 30% of those cases, the defendants were acquitted; one in 10 defendants was sentenced to life imprisonment. In the remaining cases, sentences of between five and 25 years were handed down to those found guilty. (DW, June 19, 2012)

  1. Rwandan genocide suspect arrested in Paris

    French authorities on May 16 arrested Félicien Kabuga, a long-fugitive Rwandan businessman accused of being a mastermind of the 1994 genocide. He was detained at a home outside Paris, where he had apparently been living for years under a false identity. Kabuga, one of Rwanda’s richest men before the genocide, was charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 1997, named as the main financier and logistical backer of the political and militia groups that committed the genocide. Kabuga is to be transfered to the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism) in Tanzania, which handles cases left outstanding after the closure of the International Criminal Tribunal. (JuristNYTHRW)

  2. Rwanda arrests Paul Rusesabagina of ‘Hotel Rwanda’ fame 

    The Rwanda Investigation Bureau has arrested Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, on offenses related to terrorism, arson, kidnap and murder. The crimes were allegedly perpetrated against unarmed Rwandans in Nyabimata, Nyaruguru district, in June 2018, and in Nyungwe, Nyamagabe district, in December 2018.

    The Rwanda Investigation Bureau made statements on Twitter that Rusesabagina was in custody after being arrested through international cooperation and is currently in police custody in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The Bureau also said, “Rusesabagina is suspected to be the founder, leader, sponsor and member of violent, armed, extremist terror outfits including MRCD and PDR-Ihumure, operating out of various places in the region and abroad.”

    Rusesabagina and his supporters have claimed to be targets of Paul Kagame’s government for protesting the suppression of dissent. 

    Trésor Rusesabagina, Paul Rusesabagina’s son, said, “Having a thought is a crime in some places, being your own man is a crime in some places, my father is guilty of having the guts to speak up. This is political, of course it is. These are the games they play,”

    Rusesabagina saved hundreds of lives during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. He provided shelter to people in the Milles Collines hotel in Kigali where he worked as a manager. The 2004 Hollywood film Hotel Rwanda was inspired by this episode. He is the recipient of several human rights awards for his efforts during the genocide, including the US Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. (Jurist)

  3. France ‘responsible’ but not ‘complicit’ in Rwanda genocide

    The Research Commission on the French Archives relating to Rwanda and the Tutsi Genocide (Duclert Commission) on March 26 submitted its report to French President Emmanuel Macron finding that the country bears responsibility due to its inaction, but was not complicit with the regime that perpetrated the genocide. (Jurist)

  4. Rwanda government report: France enabled genocide

    France played a “significant” role in “enabling a foreseeable genocide” in Rwanda, according to a report commissioned by the Rwandan government that was released April 19. The report, commissioned by the Rwandan government in 2017 and prepared by Robert Muse of the Washington DC law firm Levy Firestone Muse, acknowledges French humanitarian intervention after the genocide began, but argues that the French government for years “helped build and fortify” Rwandan institutions that later became instruments of the genocide. After this “unwavering support” for the Rwandan government in a bid for regional influence, France “did nothing to stop” the slaughter of ethnic Tutsi by that government, which dominated by members of the Hutu ethnic group. (JuristNYT)

  5. France offers semi-apology for Rwanda genocide

    French President Emmanuel Macron asked Rwandans to forgive France for its role in the 1994 genocide. Speaking at the genocide memorial in Kigali, he said France had not heeded warnings of impending carnage and had for too long “valued silence over examination of the truth.” However, he added that France had not been an accomplice in the killings.

    Rwanda’s leader praised his speech. President Paul Kagame said, “His words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth.” He called it “an act of tremendous courage.” (BBC News)

  6. Paul Rusesabagina convicted in Rwanda

    Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager who inspired the film Hotel Rwanda, has been convicted of terror charges by a court in the Central African country. An outspoken critic of President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina was found guilty of forming and financing an armed group which carried out attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019. Rights groups said the trial was “flawed” and have criticised the way in which Rusesabagina was arrested. (TNH)

  7. Rwanda genocide ‘kingpin’ dies in Mali prison

    Late last month, Malian officials announced that a former Rwandan army colonel convicted of masterminding the slaughter of at least half a million people during the 1994 genocide had died. Théoneste Bagosora, who was 80, was serving a 35-year sentence after being found guilty of crimes against humanity by the then International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

    His death on Sept. 25 follows news of the arrest in France of Félicien Kabuga, one of the Rwandan genocide’s alleged masterminds, in 2020 and the announcement that the remains of another–Augustin Bizimana, the minister of defense at the time of the killings–had been found in a grave in Republic of Congo. (HRW)