•Found guilty of rape
ARUSHA - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) yesterday sentenced Emmanuel Rukundo, a Catholic priest accused of Genocide, to twenty five years in prison.
Trial Chamber II of the ICTR composed of Judges Joseph Asoka Nihal de Silva, Taghrid Hikmet and Seon Ki Park, found Rukundo guilty of Genocide, murder as a crime against humanity and extermination.
He is the second Catholic Priest found guilty by the court. Athanase Rukundo was sentenced to life in prison last year, while Hormisdas Nsengimana is still on trial.
Dressed in his full priesthood attire, the nonchalant Rukundo was called to the dock by the presiding judge, from where he was sentenced.
“Considering all the relevant circumstances and having ensured that the accused is not being punished twice for the same offence, the chamber finds Emmanuel Rukundo guilty of Genocide, murder and extermination as a crime against humanity, to a single sentence of 25 years of imprisonment,” Judge Silva read from the verdict.
The Chamber found the priest guilty of having participated in the killings of Tutsis, together with former Rwandan soldiers, at St. Leon Minor Seminary in the Southern Province.
He was also convicted for participating in the killing of a lady identified as Rudahunga and well as severely beating and injuring her two children.
The chamber also averred that prosecution had proven beyond reasonable doubt that Rukundo was present during the commission of the crime and the soldiers acted under his authority.
A former military chaplain, Rukundo was also found guilty of having sexually assaulted a Tutsi girl at the St. Leon Seminary, an issue the chamber considered as a highly aggravating factor saying the priest abused his moral authority.
“As an educated person, the priest should have appreciated the dignity and value of human life and the need for a peaceful co-existence between communities,” Judge Joseph Asoka Nihal de Silva said.
Speaking to The New Times shortly after the sentence, ICTR Prosecutor Justice Bubacar Jallow said the prosecution was particularly happy with the findings, but could not readily confirm if they would appeal against the sentence.
“We have found the findings on sexual violation being a very important decision in that respect particularly. We shall not certainly appeal against the findings, we need to look at the judgment and review and analyze it,” he said.
However, senior legal experts at the tribunal criticized the court’s judgment saying that since the priest was found guilty of Genocide, he should have been sentenced to life in prison.
In his final submissions last year, prosecutor William Egbe had requested for the priest to be given a life sentence arguing that he deserved no lesser punishment.
The chamber finally ruled that Rukundo, who was arrested in July 2001, shall receive credit for the time he has served at the UN Detention facility as from.
The priest will remain in the custody of the tribunal pending a possible appeal or transfer to the State where he will complete his sentence.