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Former Rwanda official sentenced to 8 years for complicity in genocide

[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Thursday sentenced [press release] former director of the Rwanda tea industry Michel Bagaragaza [case materials; Trial Watch profile] to eight years in prison on charges of complicity in genocide [indictment, PDF]. As director general of OCIR-Tea [official website], Bagaragaza was accused of training, funding, and arming the Interahamwe [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a Hutu militia responsible for the deaths of thousands of Tutsis during the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder]. In explaining the leniency of the sentence [judgment summary, PDF] in relation to the charge, the trial chamber of the ICTR stated:

Bagaragaza has provided invaluable assistance to the Prosecution in its investigations. His assistance started before he was indicted without concern for self-incrimination, continued without reservation after he was indicted and detained, and he has indicated his willingness to also assist in the future. Bagaragaza has thereby, to a remarkable degree, contributed to the process of truthfinding with respect to the Rwandan tragedy and to national reconciliation. This warrants a substantial reduction of the sentence that the gravity of his offence would otherwise carry.

The eight-year prison term includes the four years Bagaragaza has already spent in custody at The Hague and in Arusha, Tanzania.

Bagaragaza pleaded guilty [JURIST report] last month to the charge of complicity in genocide, after which the prosecution submitted an amended indictment [hearing minutes, PDF] dropping the charges of genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. Bagaragaza was transferred [JURIST report] from The Hague to the ICTR in Arusha, Tanzania, in May 2008 after a Dutch court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction to try his case. In August 2007, the ICTR revoked [JURIST report] a previous order transferring Bagaragaza's case to a local court in the Netherlands after the country expressed doubt that its court system could handle the trial. In 2006, the ICTR denied [JURIST report] a request by the prosecution to transfer Bagaragaza's trial to Norway because Norway did not have a specific law against genocide. Bagaragaza surrendered [JURIST report] to the ICTR in August 2005.

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