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Finland court begins genocide trial of former Rwandan pastor

[JURIST] A Finnish court on Tuesday began the trial of former Rwandan pastor Francois Bazaramba, accused of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder]. Bazaramba has denied charges of involvement in the genocide as well as the 15 counts of murder against him. On Tuesday, he petitioned [YLE report] to disqualify the trial judge for statements made to the press on Monday that Bazaramba alleges demonstrate the judge's bias. His motion was denied. The trial is the first time a genocide case has been heard in Finland. The Finnish Penal Code [text, PDF] provides that Finland must bring charges against an offender whose extradition has not been granted if the offense is punishable by more than six months of imprisonment. The Finnish government denied the Rwandan extradition request [press release] for Bazaramba in February, citing the possibility that Rwandan authorities would be unable to ensure a fair trial. Bazaramba was charged [JURIST report] in June and is being tried under universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder]. Amnesty International [advocacy website] called the trial an "important step against impunity" [press release], but has abstained from taking a position on the charges against Bazaramba. The trial will hear from witnesses in Kigali and then resume in Porvoo, Finland. If convicted, Bazaramba could face a life sentence.

In July, Sweden became the first European Union (EU) nation to grant an extradition request [JURIST report] by the Rwandan government. Sylvere Ahorugeze [Trial Watch backgrounder], a Tutu who headed the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority [official website] during Rwanda's civil war, has appealed to the European Court on Human Rights [official website], which has granted a stay on the extradition pending review of his case. A Rwandan Hutu was the first to be convicted [JURIST report] under Canada's new Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act [text, PDF] in May. In March, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon pledged his ongoing support [JURIST report] for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] and stressed that the international community must continue to combat genocide. 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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