2008 will remain memorable in the history of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). It is in 2008 that the long awaited “Military I” case involving the I994 Genocide planners was brought to rest. The day was December 18.
The man at the centre is Théoneste Bagosora. The ICTR prosecution named him the mastermind of the Genocide while former UNAMIR commander General Romeo Dallaire, described Bagosora as the “kingpin” behind the genocide.
Others in the same case were General Gratien Kabiligi, head of the military operations bureau (G-3), who was acquitted by the court, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, commander of the Para Commando Battalion and Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, commander of the Operational Sector of Gisenyi.
Like Bagosora, Ntabakuze and Nsengiyumva were sentenced to life imprisonment, a sentence that did not attract any surprise, given their role in the 1994 massacres.
However, Kabiligi’s acquittal raised many questions. Using his position and powers, Kabiligi is believed to have played an instrumental role in commanding the killing of innocent Tutsis in the country.
The ICTR also sentenced Protais Zigiranyirazo alias Mr ‘Z’ to twenty years in jail on two counts of Genocide and extermination.
The court found Zigiranyirazo guilty of having participated in a joint criminal enterprise with a common purpose of committing Genocide and extermination as well as aiding and abetting Genocide.
On December 2, ICTR rendered another judgement of Genocide musician Simon Bikindi. It convicted him of direct and public incitement to commit genocide and sentenced him to fifteen years imprisonment.
The court found Bikindi guilty of direct and public incitement to commit genocide for his calls to exterminate Tutsi at the end of June 1994 on the Kivumu-Kayove road and acquitted him on the counts of conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, and murder and persecution as crimes against humanity.
The Chamber considered that there were no mitigating factors, and that the fact that Bikindi abused his stature by using his influence to incite genocide is an aggravating factor.
Like, Kabiligi, many described Bikindi’s sentence as too minor, arguing that direct and public incitement to commit genocide is a crime that is directly linked to Genocide, and hence punishable by life imprisonment.
On September 24, ICTR’s Trial Chamber III sentenced Simeon Nshamihigo, a former Deputy Prosecutor for Cyangugu Prefecture -currently part of the Northern Province to life imprisonment.
The court found him guilty of genocide, extermination, murder and other inhumane act as crimes against humanity. The chamber found that on April 7, 1994, Nshamihigo incited Interahamwe militias to kill Tutsi with the intention to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group and other civilians who were alleged to be RPF accomplices.
The Chamber also found that Nshamihigo participated in various attacks on refugee camp places.
Nshamihigo was arrested in 2001 at the ICTR premises after it was discovered he had been employed by the same court under a false name.
His detention was inspired by a witness at one of the trials; the witness recognised him and revealed his true identity as one of the organisers of the genocide.