Rwandan ex-mayor gets life for 'sadistic' genocide

A former Rwandan mayor convicted for the country’s 1994 genocide saw his 30-year sentence boosted to life in prison on Friday, as a United Nations-backed court rejected his appeal, accusing him of “sadism”.

Appeals judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said the term handed down in June 2004 to Sylvestre Gacumbitsi had been too lenient, given the nature of his actions during the genocide.

“The trial chamber ventured outside its scope of discretion by imposing a sentence of 30 years imprisonment only,” the panel said in its ruling.

Gacumbitsi had been convicted on numerous counts, including genocide, extermination and rape as a crime against humanity, for his role in leading mass killings and atrocities in the town of Rusumo in Rwanda’s eastern Kibungu province of which he was mayor.

He had pleaded not guilty, arguing he had not been in Kibungu when an estimated 20 000 people perished during the genocide in which about 800 000 mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu extremists.

Gacumbitsi (59) had asked for the guilty verdicts to be overturned but the appeals panel was unconvinced and agreed with prosecutors who had also appealed the sentence, seeking a longer prison term.

“The appellant played a central role in planning, instigating, ordering, committing, and aiding and abetting genocide and extermination in his commune of Rusumo, where thousands of Tutsis were killed or seriously harmed,” it said.

Gacumbitsi was also guilty of “instigating rape as a crime against humanity” and “exhibited particular sadism in specifying that where victims resisted, they should be killed in an atrocious manner”, it said.

Prosecutors said the ex-mayor had driven around Kibungo urging that Tutsi women be “raped and sexually degraded” and on one occasion called for Hutus to “search the bushes” for Tutsi girls to rape.

In another appeal decision handed down on Friday by the ICTR in northern Tanzania, appellate judges slashed by more than half the sentence handed down to the first former Rwandan army officer convicted by the court.

A separate panel of judges threw out convictions on two of five counts initially handed down to ex-lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe and cut his sentence from 27 to 12 years.

Four of five appeals justices found the trial court had erred in convicting Imanishimwe of genocide and extermination in February 2004, but upheld convictions on counts of imprisonment, torture and murder.

Imanishimwe (45), the first member of the genocide-era Rwandan army to be tried by the ICTR, had asked for all his convictions to be overturned while prosecutors had appealed his sentence, arguing it should be increased to life.

He had been the commander of the Karambo military barracks in Rwanda’s south-western Cyanugu province during the 1994 genocide and was convicted at trial for “organising the massacre, torture and imprisonment of numbers of civilians”.

About 100 000 people are believed to have been killed in Cyagugu during the genocide.

Imanishimwe had been tried alongside former Rwandan transport minister Andre Ntagerura and the ex-civilian leader of Cyangugu province, Emmanuel Bagambiki, in connection with the killings.

His two co-defendants were acquitted by the trial court and the not guilty verdicts confirmed on appeal earlier this year.

Formed in late 1994, the ICTR has so far convicted 25 people and acquitted three.—AFP

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