Genocide convict Bernard Munyagishari changed his plea to guilty in an appeal hearing that started on Thursday, November 12 at the Court of Appeal. The 60-year-old was handed life imprisonment in 2017 after he was found guilty by High Court in 2017 on two counts; participation in the Genocide against the Tutsi, and committing murder as a crime against humanity. He lodged an appeal afterward. The information regarding his change in plea came up during the first hearing on Thursday, though the trial could not go on due to constraints regarding physical access to his lawyer. During the court session, the judge asked prosecution to submit a certain document concerning the case, but the prosecutor answered that it was no longer necessary since Munyagishari had chosen to plead guilty. Munyagishari attended the court session via video link from prison, due to measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Given chance to speak, he told court that he was not ready to plead in the absence of his lawyer who had not made it to prison to be with him physically as is the procedure. The lawyer, who was present in court, supported his client’s argument, saying it can only be feasible if they are physically together so as to easily consult. Following cases of Covid-19 that were reported in prison facilities, lawyers, who have been normally allowed into the facilities to meet their clients, have now been restricted. In response, prosecution said they had no problem concerning Munyagishari’s request to adjourn the session to allow for him to be physically together with his lawyer. After taking a brief retreat, the judges decided to postpone the hearing to November 17. However, they noted that technology will be used to connect Munyagishari with his lawyer in-camera discussions during the hearings, noting that there is little hope for them to be allowed to be together in the prison since the pandemic is still going on. Munyagishari is a former zonal head of MRND – the political party that masterminded the genocide – in the former Gisenyi Prefecture. He was transferred to Rwanda in July 2013 from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as the court wound up its activities to pave way for the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. In its ruling, the High Court affirmed that the suspect attended several meetings in which the Genocide was prepared in 1994; and played a major role in drawing up lists of Tutsi to be killed. He also facilitated the setting up of roadblocks where Tutsi were slaughtered, mainly in Gisenyi, currently Rubavu District. During his trials in the high court, witnesses testified that he used to train Interahamwe militia and supplied them with weapons to use in the killings. He was arrested in May 2011 in the Democratic Republic of Congo, following an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In the early days of the trial, Munyagishari had maintained that he was not Rwandan but a Congolese citizen, despite several witnesses who knew him well pinning him. According to an indictment issued by the ICTR, Munyagishari welded a lot of powers during the genocide, which he mainly derived from his close association with the then government and military officials. The UN court said that he closely worked with Joseph Nzirorera, the Secretary-General of MRND, the then planning minister Augustin Ngirabatware and the military commandant in Gisenyi area Col Anatole Nsengiyumva. All these were tried and convicted to varying terms by the ICTR.