Rwanda Politicians Jailed for Life for 1994 Genocide

Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera, president and vice-president respectively of the ruling MRND party at the time of the Rwanda genocide, pleaded not guilty to their role in the 1994 massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), the UN backed court, found the men guilty of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination as a crime against humanity, rape and sexual assault as crimes against humanity, and killings as causing violence to health and physical or mental well-being.

The tribunal, based in neighboring Tanzania’s town of Arusha, was set up by the UN in 1995 to prosecute people responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda.

AFP writes:

“The court concludes that the rapes and the sexual crimes carried out on Tutsi girls and women by soldiers and militia, including the Interahamwe, are a natural and predictable consequence of the joint criminal enterprise seeking to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group,” the judges said. […] Nine suspects sought by the ICTR are still fugitives and the court will wrap up its cases in July 2012. A much smaller structure, known as the “residual mechanism,” will pick up where the ICTR leaves off.

One of the many controversial aspects about the situation in Rwanda seventeen years ago was the slow international response to the killings. On April 28th, 1994, State Department spokeswoman Christine Shelley was asked whether what was happening in Rwanda was a genocide. She responded, “…The use of the term ‘genocide’ has a very precise legal meaning, although it’s not strictly a legal determination. There are other factors in there as well.” The U.N. Security Council passed a resolution condemning the killing, but omitted the word “genocide.” Had the term been used, the U.N. would have been legally obliged to “prevent and punish” the perpetrators. Having visited the ravaged country in the aftermath, did then-President Clinton regret the U.S.’s inaction:

“… the international community, together with nations in Africa, must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy, as well. We did not act quickly enough after the killing began. We should not have allowed the refugee camps to become safe havens for the killers. We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide. We cannot change the past. But we can and must do everything in our power to help you build a future without fear, and full of hope …”

More here

Here is a timeline from BBC of the 100 days of genocide.

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