The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has sentenced former Rwandan planning minister Augustin Ngirabatware to 35 years in prison for crimes of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and rape as a crime against humanity.
This is likely to be the last judgment the Tribunal, which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, will be deliver as its mandate officially ends on December 31.
The judgment caps 17 years of juridical work that has provoked as much criticism as support. Rwanda, which has headlined the criticism, welcomed the Tribunal’s last decision.
According to the Tribunal’s summary of judgment and sentence, “a number of prosecution witnesses described Ngirabatware as being tantamount to “a god”in the region, and Ngirabatware acknowledged that he was a figure of authority in Gisenyi préfecture.”
As such, “Having considered this overwhelming evidence, and taking into account Ngirabatware’s various positions and the extent to which they were known around Nyamyumba commune, the Chamber has no doubt that Ngirabatware was an influential and well-known personality in Nyamyumba commune and its surrounding areas throughout the relevant events in 1994.”
On account of this, the three-judge Chamber, presided over Judge William H. Sekule from Tanzania, found Ngirabatware guilty “for instigating and aiding and abetting the attacks and killings of Tutsis in Nyamyumba commune through his words and actions in distributing weapons on April 7, 1994.”
Mr Ngirabatware worked in various ministries in the government before taking charge of the planning portfolio from 1990 to July 1994.
He was also a member of the National Committee of the MRND party, of the Préfecture Committee of the MRND party in Gisenyi, and of the technical committee of Nyamyumba commune.
The 55-year-old was arrested in Germany on September 17, 2007 and transferred to the ICTR custody in Arusha, on October 8, 2008. His trial began a year later on September 23, 2009 and closed on July 3, 2012.
With the main Chamber closed, all focus now will likely be turned to the genocide archives – that is, all the court’s classified and unclassified documents.
Although the UN, which set up the Tribunal, has declared the archives are its property and will remain in Tanzania, Rwanda has stated that they belong to its collective experience of genocide and so they should be transferred to its territory.
Rwanda’s position was backed by the East African Community early this month. At its summit in Nairobi, Dr Richard Sezibera, the Community’s Secretary General, said the heads of state had written to the UN to ask it to release the archives to Rwanda.