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Rwanda court sentences former Mayor to life for involvement in 1994 genocide

Former Rwandan mayor and politician, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the killing of over 25,000 people in the 1994 Rwanda genocide, yesterday.

58-year-old Ntaganzwa, who served as the mayor of Nyakizu in southern Rwanda, was today “sentenced to life imprisonment over genocide crimes committed during the genocide against Tutsi in 1994,” according to court spokesman, Harrison Mutabazi.

The ruling was made via a video conference and Ntaganzwa and his lawyers were able to follow it via Skype at Mpanga prison in Southern Rwanda.

In response to the verdict, Alexis Musonera, Ntaganzwa's lawyer, stated he would appeal the ruling;

“We plan to appeal because evidence in the hearing was based on witnesses' testimony but that was not enough as some witnesses were contradicting themselves. We are not happy about this lengthy life jail term.”

Indictment history

Ntaganza was indicted in 1996 by the lnternational Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, on multiple charges of genocide, murder and rape. The indictment stated that he congregated and surrounded Tutsis and instructed them to lay down their arms, before giving orders to initiate a massacre upon them.

During the last four months of the Rwandan Civil War, an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed as part of the genocide.

The indictment recalled that that the massacre began “whereupon the gendarmes and communal police shot at the crowd” and accused Ntaganzwa of attempting an execution of Rwanda’s Tutsi population. He was alleged to directly order the slaughter of tens of thousands of Tutsi civilians in his town in April 1994.

The tribunal was replaced five years ago by the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, which had offices in both Arusha, Tanzania and The Hague, Netherlands.

Ntaganzwa was arrested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in December 2015; he was then detained in Rwanda in March 2016 and labelled as one of nine remaining Rwandan war criminals sought by the International Criminal Tribunal, with the US offering up to $5m for information leading to his arrest.

Continued sanctioning

This verdict comes just days after the top-most fugitive, Felicien Kabuga, alleged for funding weaponry for the genocide and encouraging mass slaughter through controlled broadcasting, was arrested in France last week after 25 years on the run. 

Kabuga has most recently been denied bail. A former commander of the Presidential Guard of the Rwandan Armed Forces, Protais Mpiranya, remains on the wanted list, for his role in the genocide. Another genocide suspect, former Defence Minister Augustin Bizimana, who was one of the most-wanted fugitives, had died last week.  

Read more here.