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Rwanda genocide tribunal begins trial of former businessman for church massacre

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Monday began [press release] genocide proceedings [case materials] against a former businessman man charged with ordering a bulldozer to knock down a church housing refugees and then ordering the bulldozer driver to crush those refugees during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors say that Gaspard Kanyarukiga [Trial Watch backgrounder] helped plan the 1994 massacre in which 2,000 Tutsis died from being crushed or shot as they attempted to flee the structure. Kanyarukiga was indicted [text, PDF] in 2001 and pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] in 2004. In June 2008, the ICTR denied a request to extradite [JURIST report] Kanyarukiga to Rwanda for trial. The trial could take a several years [AP report] to complete.

Last month, the UN Security Council [official website] extended the terms [JURIST report] for ICTR judges until December 31, 2010, or until they complete their cases. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pledged his ongoing support [JURIST report] for the ICTR and stressed that the international community must continue to combat genocide. Last year, Kanyarukiga's alleged co-conspirator, Catholic priest Athanase Seromba was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the genocide after prosecutors successfully argued that his original 15-year sentence [JURIST reports] was too lenient. The ICTR was established to try genocide suspects for crimes occurring during the 1994 Rwandan conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in which approximately 800,000 people, primarily Tutsis, died.

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