Genocide-convicted Augustin Ngirabatware/ Photo byTribune Franco-Rwandaise
Arusha, December 18, 2014(FH) – The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT) on Thursday reduced ex-Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware’s sentence for genocide from 35 to 30 years on appeal.
The MICT was set up by the UN in December 2010 to handle the residual functions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which are both wrapping up their work. It has come progressively into operation since July 2012.
Ngirabatware remains in MICT custody pending his transfer to a State where he will serve his sentence, said presiding judge Theodor Meron of the US.
In December 20, 2012, the ICTR trial court found Ngirabatware guilty of genocide, direct and public incitement to genocide and rape as a crime against humanity, and sentenced him to 35 years in jail. The Appeals judges threw out the conviction for rape and reduced the sentence by five years.
Ngirabatware is a son-in-law of rich businessman Félicien Kabuga, who is one of the nine top ICTR accused persons still on the run.
According to the first-instance judgment, the former minister helped and incited militia in his native commune of Nyamyumba (Gisenyi prefecture, northern Rwanda) to kill their Tutsi neighbours from February to April 1994. The trial judges found him guilty of distributing arms to the militiamen, saying he did not want to see any more Tutsis alive in his commune.
The trial court threw out most of the defence arguments of Ngirabatware, who claimed he never set foot in Nyamyumba during the period in question.
According to the first-instance judges, a Tutsi woman was raped several times in April 1994 as part of a “joint criminal enterprise” on a wider scale, to which the ex-minister was linked. However, the appeals judges found that Ngirabatware’s involvement in the rape had not been established beyond reasonable doubt.
Ngirabatware, who has a doctorate in economics from Switzerland, fled Rwanda in July 1994. He subsequently worked in research institutes in France and Gabon before being arrested in Germany in 2007 and transferred to the ICTR a year later. His trial opened in September 2009.
Six other former Rwandan leaders convicted by the ICTR are awaiting appeals hearings in a joint trial and their final judgment is not expected before August 2015, according to the ICTR.
This very complicated case includes the only woman indicted by the ICTR, ex-Minister of Family Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, and her son Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, who were both given life sentences by the lower court.