Rwanda has protested a ruling by the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which quashed an earlier life sentence for Genocide mastermind, Col. Théoneste Bagosora, replacing it with 35 years in prison.
Bagosora, a former director of cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, is widely regarded as the main brains behind the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, in which over a million people perished.
He has spent 15 years in the ICTR custody, meaning he is remaining with just 20 years in jail.
The Tanzanian-based UN court also reduced the sentence of Lt Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva, from life to 15 years, and ordered for his immediate release, putting into account the time he served during his trial.
Speaking to The New Times after the ruling, the Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, Jean de Dieu Mucyo, described the court’s decision to lessen the sentences as ‘a shame’.
“I was shocked by the decision; it’s nothing but an insult to Genocide survivors; however, I need to read the ruling thoroughly to know the exact basis of the judgment,” said Mucyo.
The Appeal chamber argued that Bagosora did not order the killings, rapes and assassination of politicians, but as, a top defence ministry official, he knew the crimes were going to be committed and did nothing to stop them despite having the powers to do so.
Reacting to the news, Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga observed inconstancies in the ICTR’s decision, compared to the previous ruling.
“The sentences are difficult to comprehend. They have also created jurisprudential inconsistence, a huge deviation from the decision in Jean Kambanda’s case,” he stated last evening.
Kambanda, who was prime minister for the regime that executed the Genocide, confessed the crimes committed by his government. He is serving a life sentence.
“Rwandans see no difference between the two (Kambanda and Bagosora) in terms of their role in the Genocide. Even though this is a final judgment there is need for reflection to see what went wrong,” said Ngoga.
In 2008, a lower ICTR chamber sentenced Bagosora to life for committing crimes against humanity and war crimes, command responsibility over the genocidal army, responsible for the killings of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers in charge of her security mounting roadblocks, rape, and Genocide.
Nsengiyumva had previously been found responsible for the massacres committed at Mudende University, Nyundo parish, as well as the targeted killings of civilians in the area under his command, in the then Gisenyi Prefecture.
He was also found guilty of sending militiamen to the Bisesero area of Kibuye prefecture to kill Tutsi refugees in June 1994.
Both Bagosora and Nsengiyumva were originally jointly tried with two other military officers, Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi and Major Aloys Ntabakuze, ex-Commander of Para-Commando Battalion, in the so-called “Military I case”.
Ntabakuze was also convicted of the same offences and sentenced to life imprisonment by the lower court, while Kabiligi was acquitted.
However, Ntabakuze’s appeals case was separated from the others after his lead counsel, American lawyer Peter Erlinder, failed to show up on March 30, 2011 for the appeal hearing, according to the ICTR.
Ntabakuze’s appeal was heard on September 27, 2011Follow https://twitter.com/EdwinMusoni