[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] Tuesday sentenced [judgment,PDF; judgment summary, PDF] popular Rwandan singer-songwriter Simon Bikindi [ICTR case materials] to 15 years in prison for his actions during the 1994 Rwanda genocide [HRW backgrounder]. Bikindi had been indicted [indictment, PDF] in 2005 on six amended counts relating to genocide. The prosecution alleged [ICTR press release] that Bikindi "through the lyrical content of his music, consciously and deliberately assisted in executing the plan to exterminate Tutsis." While the court found that five of the six charges had not been proven beyond a reasonable doubt, Bikindi was convicted of direct and public incitement to genocide for a 1994 speech in which he called on Hutus to rise up and exterminate the Tutsis. The court felt that a serious sanction was warranted because Bikindi had "abused [his] stature as a well-known and popular artist perceived to be an influential member of the MRND and an important figure in the Interahamwe movement by using [his] influence to incite genocide." In light of this aggravating factor, the absence of any mitigating factors, and the sentencing practices of the ICTR, the court sentenced Bikindi to 15 years in prison.
Bikindi was first indicted and arrested in 2001. At the time of his arrest, Bikindi was living in the Netherlands. He fought extradition for several months but lost and was turned over to the ICTR in March 2002 where he pleaded not guilty [Hirondelle materials] to charges of genocide. The trial commenced [JURIST report] in September 2006 following numerous delays relating to court ordered amendments to the original indictment [trial minutes, PDF].