KIGALI - The Military Tribunal of Kigali has ruled that Brig. Gen. Wilson Gumisiriza and Maj. Wilson Ukwishaka were Friday acquitted for the murders of ten Catholic clergymen, including three bishops in June 1994 in Kabgayi, Southern Province.
The court ruling presided over by Brig. Gen. Steven Karyango ordered the immediate release of the two senior officers who had earlier been charged together with Captains John Butera and (rtd) Dieudonné Rukeba.
The prosecution had charged the two senior RDF Commanders with command responsibility and complicity because the crimes were committed by their subordinates.
Butera and Rukeba pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to eight years in jail.
The military prosecutor had earlier requested life imprisonment for Gen. Gumisiriza and Maj. Ukwishaka who denied the charges throughout the proceedings. The prosecutor had also requested 15 years for Butera and Rukeba.
The two junior officers said that they had been pushed to vengeance by accounts they heard among refugees alleging that the religious authorities had collaborated with killers in the Genocide.
Reading the verdict, Gen. Karyango told the court that the judgments were drawn from different international laws of crimes committed during wars and consultations from renowned scholars’ books.
Karyango said that the command responsibility doctrine could not apply on Gumisiriza and Ukwishaka. He also said that there was no element of preemption of knowledge and that the two officers had no notice that the murder s would take place.
“Keeping the law in consideration and basing on a situation that was on ground, Gen. Gumisiriza can not be charged of complicity or command responsibility and for that matter, he is not guilty and should be released immediately,” Karyango read.
Court also ruled that none of Ukwishaka’s soldiers was ‘Absent Without Leave’ (AWOL) or missed in action so he could also not be charged with command responsibility.
It also ruled that there wasn’t any alarming information that could lead him to prevent the killings, meaning that he couldn’t be held responsibile.
The four officers were arrested on June11, following joint investigations by Rwanda’s Prosecutor General’s Office and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The trial of the four officers was closely monitored by the ICTR which sent one of its senior trial attorneys, Cameroonian William Egbe, to make sure trial met international standards.
Among the murdered clergymen, were the Archbishop of Kigali, Vincent Nsengiyumva who was a personal friend and advisor of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.