The High Regional Court of Frankfurt, Germany, has set February18 for the ruling on a case involving Rwandan Onesphore Rwabukombe who was prosecuted for genocide crimes.
Rwabukombe, 54, who was arrested in 2010 in Germany, is the first Rwandan to be tried by the German court in connection with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He is a former bourgmestre (mayor) of Muvumba commune, now Nyagatare District.
During its submission this week, German prosecutors prayed court to hand the suspect a life sentence (an equivalent of 25 years in jail in the German judicial system) for his role in the Genocide.
Genocide survivors have welcomed the trial and called on other Western countries to maintain the momentum in trying people suspected of taking part in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
A French court, on Tuesday, began hearing a landmark trial of former senior intelligence officer, Capt. Pascal Simbikangwa, for his alleged role in the Genocide.
“It’s a good gesture and we highly welcome the trial, but our concern is why they had to wait for 20 years for them to try these people. We are a nation that is still rebuilding itself, there is no way we can achieve our goals without justice,” Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, an umbrella of associations advocating for the interests of Genocide survivors, told The New Times.
“Delivering justice to the survivors is empowering them. The more these suspects are tried, the faster survivors heal.”
According to the charge sheet, Rwabukombe is accused of inciting the Interahamwe militia in Muvumba commune to kill Tutsis and actively participated in the killings in the nearby Murambi commune, now Eastern Province.
In particular, he is accused of being responsible for the death of more than 3,730 people when, on April 11, 1994, he participated in the purge in Kiziguro church.
Some 1,200 people who had sought refuge in the church are said to have been killed on Rwabukombe’s instructions.
He is also accused of supervising the massacre in the Kabarondo church on April 13, 1994.
German prosecutors say Rwabukombe called, on three occasions in the first half of April 1994, for a pogrom against the Tutsi, with the result being the “countless” number of people who were killed.
He also stands accused of ordering a local official to turn away Tutsi refugees seeking shelter at his home, threatening otherwise to have his family killed. At least one of these refugees was subsequently murdered.
Around 50 witnesses were called to testify in the trial.
Earlier, during the proceedings, a prosecution witness, only identified as Grace U, told the court: “He [Rwabukombe] was there at the church, together with the others. It was him telling them “Work! Work! Work!” and then they started to kill the Tutsi.”
Rwabukombe has since maintained silence in court.
Judge Thomas Sagebiel had earlier pleaded with the suspect that it is in his best interest to speak to the court, but Rwabukombe defied the plea.
A prosecutor, Christian Ritscher, told the court that, “Rwabukombe was not only influential but also the head and organiser of massacres in 1994.”