The High Regional Court of Frankfurt, Germany, is expected to rule in a case involving Rwandan Onesphore Rwabukombe today.
Rwabukombe, 54, was prosecuted for genocide crimes committed while serving as bourgmestre (mayor) of Muvumba commune (now in Nyagatare District), Eastern Province.
Arrested in 2010 in Germany, Rwabukombe is the first Rwandan to be tried by the German court in connection with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
German prosecutors requested 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 in Rwanda and abroad have welcomed the trial and called on Germany and other Western countries to maintain momentum in trying people suspected of taking part in the Genocide against the Tutsi.
More than a million Rwandans were killed in the Genocide that lasted for three months, targeting Tutsis and anyone who opposed the massacre.
Commenting on Rwabukombe’s trial two weeks ago, Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, the president of Ibuka, an umbrella association of Genocide survivors, told The New Times that “delivering justice to the survivors” is still important for their healing even if it has taken some countries 20 years to start the trials.
“It’s a good gesture and we highly welcome the trial. We are a nation trying to rebuild itself. There is no way we can achieve our goals without justice,” Dusingizemungu said.
Rwabukombe is accused of inciting the Interahamwe militia in Muvumba commune to kill Tutsis and actively participating in the killings in the nearby Murambi commune, also now in Eastern Province.
He is also 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 in former Murambi commune.
Some 1,200 people who had sought refuge in the church are said to have been killed on Rwabukombe’s instructions.
The defendant 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.
Around 50 witnesses testified in the trial, some of them accusing him of urging local officials and members of Interahamwe militia to kill Tutsis.
Prosecutors told court that “Rwabukombe was not only influential but also the head and organiser of massacres in 1994”.
-1994: Rwabukombe, a member of the local executive committee of the then ruling party MRND (Mouvement Républicain National pour la Démocratie et le Développement) and mayor of the Muvumba commune, is accused of inciting Hutus to kill Tutsis and actively participating in the the Genocide.
- 2002: Seeks asylum in Germany.
-2007: Rwandan justice authorities transfer an international arrest warrant to Germany and he is put on the Interpol list.
-2008: Rwabukombe is arrested in Gelnhausen and Rwanda sends his extradition request to Germany but the latter declines because there were doubts as to whether he would receive a fair trial in Rwanda. He is thus set free.
-2010: A new arrest warrant is issued and, on July 26, 2010 ,Rwabukombe is arrested near Frankfurt. The investigating judge orders the enforcement of pre-trial custody.
-February 18, 2014: Judge’s verdict.
Compiled by Eugene Kwibuka.