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Rwanda ex-justice minister sentenced to life in prison on genocide charges

[JURIST] A court in the Rwandan capital of Kigali on Tuesday sentenced former justice minister Agnes Ntamabyariro to life in prison for inciting violence during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder]. The Court of First Instance of Nyarugenge found [BBC report] that Ntamabyariro and co-defendant Jean-Leonard Hategekimana, classified as Category 1 Suspects [official materials], had participated in planning the genocide, distributing weapons, and arranging the assassination of Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, then the Tutsi governor of Butare province, who opposed the genocide. Ntamabyariro and Hategekimana are the first officials from the interim government responsible for the genocide to be convicted in Rwandan courts. Ntamabyariro said that she would appeal [RNA report] the conviction.

Most prosecutions relating to the genocide are being conducted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive], including the recent convictions of former defense officials and a prominent entertainer [JURIST reports]. Citing concerns over the potential for fair trials, the UN-backed tribunal has refused to transfer cases [JURIST report] to Rwandan courts. The ICTR was established by the UN Security Council in 1994 to try those suspected of having committed genocide during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis. Under UN Security Council Resolution 1503 (2003) [text, PDF], the ICTR was supposed to complete all trials by the end of 2008, and to complete all of its work, including appellate review, by 2010. In June, however, the ICTR prosecutor asked the Council [JURIST report] to extend its mandate, noting that the recent arrests of several genocide suspects meant that the court would not have time to finish several first-instance cases until 2009.

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