The appeal trial of Genocide suspect, Theodore Rukeratabaro, in Stockholm’s Svea Court of Appeal, in Sweden started on Monday morning.
Rukeratabaro, alias Tabaro, was in June handed a life sentence after being convicted for genocide. It is not yet clear how long the appeal hearing will last.
A survivor of the killings masterminded by the convict more than two decades ago in Winteko Sector of Rusizi District during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi has told The New Times that upholding the life sentence pronounced in June is the only wish of survivors.
The survivors are not alone as the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) is also monitoring proceedings in the appeal trial in Stockholm, hoping the life sentence handed down in June is upheld.
Rukeratabaro – a mastermind of the massacres that took place between April and May, 1994, in the present Winteko Sector of Rusizi District – was convicted for genocide and gross human rights violations, crimes he committed during the 1994 Genocide.
Egide Mutabazi, 42, a survivor knew the convict well enough since they played together as children and went to the same school as youngsters, indicated that a life sentence will be justice done.
He said: “As a survivor of the Genocide from Winteko my wish is that the punishment that Rukeratabaro was initially handed be upheld.”
Mutabazi lost five close relatives, including his father, in killings masterminded by Rukeratabaro.
According to Mutabazi, and other survivors, Rukeratabaro, who fled to Sweden in 1998 and obtained citizenship there in 2006, altered his name to evade justice.
Instead of being referred to as 'Rukeratabaro', he goes by the name 'Tabaro'.
During the Genocide, Rukeratabaro was a gendarme (present-day police) who was involved in perpetration of the Genocide in his native Sector, Winteko, Nyakanyinya and Mibirizi where hundreds of Tutsi had sought refuge.
In June, the CNLG commended the Swedish judiciary after it handed the life sentence to Rukeratabaro for his role in the 1994 Genocide.
Dr Jean-Damascène Bizimana, the CNLG Executive Secretary, said: “When Rukeratabaro Theodore was sentenced to life imprisonment on June 27, 2018, CNLG released a statement thanking the justice of Sweden for delivering justice.
“Rukeratabaro is a high profile murderer who exterminated the Tutsi in what used to be called Cyangugu Prefecture in the region of Winteko, in Kamparampaka stadium, in Nyakanyinya and Mibilizi. He very much believed in the cruel policy of the CDR party and its president, Martin Bucyana, and they both hailed from Cyimbogo Commune.”
The Commission, Dr Bizimana said, still thanks Sweden because it fulfilled the requirements of the 1948 Convention about preventing and punishing the crime of genocide.
The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 9, 1948 as General Assembly Resolution 260. It entered into force on January 12, 1951.
Dr Bizimana added: “The Convention stipulates that any country has a responsibility of bringing to court any person who committed genocide from anywhere. This is a good way of fighting the culture of impunity and showing that genocide is an international crime.”
Rwanda sent Rukeratabaro’s indictment to Sweden on September 12, 2014.
The genocide convict has been living in Örebro, a Swedish city with 117,543 inhabitants.
Before the initial trial begun in a special Stockholm court last September, Swedish judges came to Rwanda to gather evidence.
The Swedish court conviction of the 50-year-old man, in June, was the third such conviction after Stanislas Mbanenande in 2014 and Berinkindi Claver in 2017. Mbanenande and Berinkidi – two other genocide convicts – were also sentenced to life in prison by Swedish Courts.