Ex-Rwanda army chief sentenced for genocide
UN court in Tanzanian city of Arusha jails Augustine Bizimungu for 30 years for role in Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Last Modified: 17 May 2011 13:46
The genocide lasted 100 days and left 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, dead [EPA]

The UN court for Rwanda has handed the general who was army chief during the country's 1994 genocide a 30-year jail term for his role in the mass killing, including calling for the murder of ethnic Tutsis.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) found that Augustine Bizimungu had complete control over the men he commanded, who were involved in the massacres that started on the night of April 6.

Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former head of the paramiltary police, was also convicted of genocide crimes but the court ordered his release as he had already spent 11 years behind bars since his arrest.

Bizimungu and Ndindiliyimana are among the most senior figures to be tried by the tribunal, based in the Tanzanian city of Arusha, for the genocide in which 800,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, were killed.

The genocide targeted mostly minority Tutsis and was orchestrated by machete-wielding Hutus calling themselves the Interahamwe, meaning "those who work together".

It was triggered by the shooting down of a plane carrying Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu president who was returning from peace talks with the now-ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) in neighbouring Tanzania.

All people on board, including the president of neighbouring Burundi, were killed. It is not clear who shot down the aircraft.

PM's murder

The ICTR sentenced two other senior officers to 20 years in jail for war crimes and crimes against humanity for ordering the murder of Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the Rwandan prime minister.

The judges found that Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu instructed an armoured unit to kill Uwilingiyimana and made no attempt to punish the soldiers who killed the Belgian UN Blue Helmets protecting her.

The killing of the Belgians triggered the withdrawal of the UN force stationed in Rwanda.

The long-running case, known as the Military II trial, had been effectively adjourned since June 2009 when prosecutors requested life sentences for all four defendants while their defence lawyers asked for their acquittal.

In the Military I trial, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, presented by the prosecutor as the brains behind the genocide, was sentenced to life in prison in December 2008, along with two other senior military figures.

Bagosora appealed, with the hearing running from March 30 to April 1, but the appeal verdict has yet to be handed down.

The ICTR was set up in 1994 and tasked only with trying those who bear the greatest responsibility for the genocide.

Lower-ranking officials and citizens accused of taking part in the massacre have been tried in Rwanda, either in the normal court system or at grass roots tribunals called "gacaca".

The gacaca are a revamped version of traditional tribunals that settled disputes in villages. The accused have no lawyers and locals considered to be upright citizens form panels of judges.

The gacaca have come in for a barrage of criticism from rights groups but have, according to the Rwandan authorities, enabled over one million people accused of involvement in the genocide to be tried.

They were set up as a solution to what became a crippling backlog of genocide cases.

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