ICTR gives life sentence to Bagosora, acquits Gen. Kabiligi
ARUSHA - The much awaited verdict in the widely publicised Military I trial was rendered yesterday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania.
The verdict handed down by Judge Eric Möse, sentenced the former Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, Col. Theoneste Bagosora, and two other former senior Rwandan military officers to life imprisonment.
The trial chamber however acquitted former director of operations in the former armed forces (Ex-FAR), a decision that has been contested by the Rwandan Government.
The two other members of the Ex-Far who were sentenced to life in jail are Major Alloys Ntabakuze, former commander of the elite Para Commando battalion and Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva who was the commander of the military operation sector of Gisenyi. They were convicted in a joint trial for Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and War crimes.
The UN court however acquitted Kabiligi, the former head of the military operations (G-3) after it found him not guilty of all the charges, and ordered his release.
The Prosecution had charged Kabiligi with participation in the distribution of weapons, meetings to plan the Genocide as well as a number of specific crimes many of which were related to roadblocks in the Kigali area.
Bagosora was found guilty of killing several politicians including former Prime Minister Agatha Uwilingiyimana, Joseph Kavaruganda, the President of the Constitutional court as well as Frederic Nzamurambaho, Landoald Ndasingwa and Faustin Rucogoza who were opposition party officials and ministers designate in a transition government that was in the offing.
“He was found guilty of killing ten Belgian peacekeepers who were killed by the soldiers at Camp Kigali. Bagosora was also responsible for the organized killings perpetrated by soldiers and militiamen at a number of sites throughout Kigali and Gisenyi,” judge Möse read from the judgment.
The court also found Ntabakuze guilty, as commander of the elite Para Commando battalion, for the participation of his soldiers in killings at Kabeza, Nyanza Hill in Kigali.
For Nsengiyumva, he was considered by the court to have been responsible for massacres at Mudende University, Nyundo parish as well as the targeted killings of civilians in Gisenyi prefecture, all in the Western Province, the area that was under his operational command.
Rwanda’s Special Representative to the ICTR, Alloys Mutabingwa, referred to Kabiligi’s acquittal as a shock saying that nobody would have expected the accused to be acquitted.
“The grounds of acquittal were founded on the judge’s assessment of evidence presented and the credibility of witnesses I think any legal judicious mind would have considered otherwise,” he said, and hastened to add that; “ But I hope that the prosecution will appeal against it because the matter is appealable.”
The three who were sentenced to life imprisonment, will be temporarily detained at the UN detention facility in Arusha before being transferred to any designated country. They can also appeal against the judgment within thirty days.
A total of 242 witnesses testified during the trial, 82 for the prosecution and 160 for the defence.
More than 300 written judicial decisions were issued during the course of the proceedings. In parallel with this trial, the judges heard nine single-accused cases.