The Military High Court (MHC) yesterday upheld an earlier ruling by the Military Tribunal acquitting Brig Gen Wilson Gumisiriza of conspiracy to murder.
Gumisiriza, together with three other officers formerly in the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPA) had been accused of playing a role in the killing clergymen in Kabgayi, Southern Province during the 1990-94 Liberation Struggle.
The court presided over by Maj. Gen. Patrick Nyanvumba y upheld the ruling by the Military Tribunal last October acquitting Brig. Gen. Wilson Gumisiriza and Maj. Wilson Ukwishaka both commanders in the operational zone of where the murders were committed at the time.
The two senior officers were jointly accused with Captains John Butera and (rtd) Dieudonné Rukeba.
The two junior officers had been found guilty and the appeal saw their sentences reduced by three years from eight, the mitigating factor being their pleading guilty.
“The court has ruled that Gumisiriza and Ukwishaka have won the case and they are innocent; the court has ruled that Butera and Rukeba have lost the case and sentenced to five years each…,” ruled Nyamvumba, who is also the president of the Kanombe based court.
Prosecution had charged the two senior RDF officers with command responsibility and complicity because the crimes were committed by their subordinates.
Among the murdered clergymen who were killed at a catholic parish called Gakurazo, was the Archbishop of Kigali, Vincent Nsengiyumva.
Reading from the verdict, Nyamvumba said the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence on the ‘presumption of knowledge’ in the command responsibility allegation and that the court would not consider the prosecution’s request.
“A person can only be punished/sentenced only if there is clear and undoubtedly evidence of notoriety and widespread nature of any kind of crime to be committed; in this case there was no way how the two commanders would have known that their subordinates were going to commit a crime” said Nyamvumba.
Gumisiriza, a Major in 1994, was the Intelligence Officer in the 157 Battalion of the then Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) which was operating in the region, while Ukwishaka was the commander of platoon under which the soldiers who killed the priests belonged.