/ 19 December 2008

Rwanda genocide convictions welcomed

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday hailed convictions by a UN-backed tribunal of three senior Rwandan army officials for participating in the 1994 genocide.

Ban ”welcomes the delivery today [Thursday] of the judgement by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda” (ICTR), according to a statement by his press office.

”These judgments constitute a major step in the fight against the impunity of those responsible for the most serious crimes of international concern.”

The United States also welcomed the convictions. ”This ruling was an important step in providing justice and accountability for the Rwandan people and the international community,” said State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack.

Former director of the Rwandan Defence Ministry Theoneste Bagosora, accused of having masterminded the genocide, was sentenced to life in prison for his part in the massacres that killed about 800 000 people.

Bagosora (67) joined two other ex-military defendants — Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva and Major Aloys Ntabakuze — who were handed a life sentence for ”genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.” The ICTR’s flagship trial began in 2002 at the tribunal’s headquarters in Arusha, northern Tanzania.

The genocide saw extremist Hutu militia slaughter minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus between April and July 1994, leading to accusations that Western nations watched them unfold without intervening. — Sapa-AFP