Rwanda genocide suspect to serve life sentence

Thursday April 20 2017

Bernard Munyagishari. The High Court in Rwanda

Bernard Munyagishari. The High Court in Rwanda on April 20, 2017 sentenced him to to life imprisonment over the role he played in the Genocide against the Tutsi. PHOTO| CYRIL NDEGEYA  

By ROBERT MBARAGA

A Rwandan court has sentenced Bernard Munyagishari to life imprisonment over the role he played in the Genocide against the Tutsi.

The special chamber of the High Court trying international crimes found Munyagishari guilty of genocide and murder as a crime against humanity. He was, however, acquitted of charges of rape charges.

According to the High Court, the prosecution failed to provide incriminating evidence proving that Munyagishari, planned, ordered, or individually committed rape.

“The court established Munyagishari’s individual criminal responsibility and criminal responsibility as superior through recruiting, training and leading the Interahamwe in killing Tutsis in Gisenyi and elsewhere” the judge said.

Munyagishari is a former secretary to the local chapter of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development - a political party linked to the ex-Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana - in Gisenyi.

He was transferred to Rwanda by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in July 2013 following his arrest in the Democratic Republic Congo in 2011.

According to the verdict, the former leader of the Interahamwe militias in Gisenyi established roadblocks in the lakeside city and its environs and personally supervised those located in the central areas of the city.

At the roadblocks that he supervised, the judge said, Munyagishari selected Tutsis and ordered his interahamwe to take them to be killed and buried at the “Commune Rouge.” The “Commune Rouge” was an infamous cemetery in Gisenyi and the adjective “rouge” (red) signifies the blood of those who were killed and dumped there.

The prosecution maintained that the accused “willfully and knowingly” ordered a special corps of young interahamwe called the Ntarumikwa, to rape Tutsi women and girls before killing them.

He was also accused of instigating his wife and a female group that she headed, to sexually torture female Tutsis before killing them.

Munyagishari's lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

Munyagishari, 58, becomes the second individual sent to Rwanda by ICTR to be convicted, after Pastor Jean Uwinkindi, who was also sentenced by the same court to life imprisonment in December 2015.

The Rwanda High Court handed Jean Bosco

The Rwanda High Court handed Jean Bosco Uwinkindi, Pentecostal Church pastor, a life sentence for his role in the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA

The third transferred case of the former mayor, Ladislas Ntaganzwa is still pending in the High Court.

Eight cases were transferred to Rwanda by the ICTR but five of the accused, Fulgence Kayishema, Pheneas Munyarugarama, Aloys Ndimbati, Ryandikayo, and Charles Sikubwabo are still at large.