A former senior official in Kigali City was, on Tuesday, sentenced to life by a Gacaca court for Genocide crimes.
The Gacaca Court of Gahogo Sector of Muhanga District found Sophanie Rutayisire responsible for, among others, the death of 80 Tutsis who had sought refuge at B.G.M. Rubirizi College in Kanombe, Kicukiro District, and the disappearance of several others shortly before the Genocide.
The court passed the ruling after several sessions conducted in Rubirizi –the scene of most of his crimes.
Rutayisire was a close friend to Maj. General Augustin Bizimungu, a former Chief-of -Staff of the genocidal army, who is on trial at the UN mandated International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania.
The court found Rutayisire guilty of providing guns to Interahamwe militia to kill Tutsis in Rubirizi area, where he was residing.
Witnesses testified that Rutayisire handed over one Verediane Mugorewera, a resident in the area, to marauding Interahamwe militia.
Mugorewera’s husband, Gerald Karumeyi, was also killed in the Genocide, the court heard.
Rutayisire told the court that Bizimungu was his good friend, and that at one point during the Genocide, the two traveled in a military helicopter to pick money from Gitarama where the genocidal regime had relocated.
At the height of Genocide, the then interim government relocated to Gitarama as the liberation army of Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) advanced towards the capital.
He denied having visited B.G.M. Rubirizi College in Kanombe, where Tutsis were hiding but several area witnesses pinned him, saying he was seen together with Interhamwe herding many Tutsis to an unknown destination.
One witness, Papius Mbarekeyende, who was Rutayisire’s neighbour during the Genocide, testified that the accused chaired several meetings aimed at killing Tutsis.
Mbarekeyende told court that since Rutayisire was not among those hunted and was powerful in the area, many Tutsis went to his home for protection, but instead, he handed them over to be killed.
“Rutayisire worked with the Genocidal regime to arrest Tutsis perceived to be working with the RPF,” another witness, Joseph Habimana, said.
Judges convicted Rutayisire, saying he had failed to defend himself. Throughout the hearing, Rutayisire kept saying that he was being framed.
One witness, Karekezi Amuli, a former leader of Biryogo Sector, Kigali, testified that he and Rutayisire organized several meetings to kill Tutsis in Rubirizi. Karekezi was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.
Karekezi said that Rutayisire, together with other senior Kigali leaders, were involved in the mass killings of alleged RPF accomplices who had been arrested in early 90s and paraded in Nyamirambo stadium.
“I saw him at Nyamirambo stadium where Tutsis were being tortured. He is just denying to save himself, but inside his heart, he knows the truth,” Karekezi explained.
The court had last month convicted Rutayisire and sentenced him to life imprisonment in absentia but he contested the ruling.
He petitioned the National Gacaca president to have his case heard again in his presence. The same court on Tuesday upheld the earlier decision.