Rwanda tribunal affirms genocide conviction of Hutu singer

[JURIST] The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Thursday affirmed [judgment, PDF; press release] the genocide conviction of popular Rwandan singer-songwriter Simon Bikindi [Trial Watch profile, case materials]. The charge was based on a speech Bikindi gave during the 1994 Rwanda genocide [HRW backgrounder] in which he called on Hutus to rise up and exterminate the Tutsis. Prosecutor Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow [official profile] appealed the 15-year sentence [judgment, PDF; JURIST report] given to Bikindi in January on the grounds that it was inadequate punishment for "direct and public incitement to commit genocide." Bikindi appealed on the basis that the sentence was disproportionate to the gravity of the offense and that court erred in its evaluation of his association with extremist militia group, Interahamwe. The court rejected both appeals.

The court also reversed [judgment, PDF] several convictions against Rwandan district attorney Simeon Nchamihigo [Trial Watch profile, case materials]. In 2008, Nchamihigo was charged [JURIST report] with four counts of genocide, murder, extermination, and other crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. The Appeals Chamber reversed his convictions of murder as a crime against humanity, extermination as a crime against humanity, and three counts of genocide. Nchamihigo's other convictions were affirmed and his sentence was reduced to 40 years. Both Bikindi and Nchamihigo are being held in the UN Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania, pending their transfer to the countries where they will serve their sentences.

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. His trial began [JURIST report] in September 2006 following numerous delays relating to court ordered amendments to the original indictment [trial minutes, PDF]. Nchamihigo was taken into custody by ICTR security staff in May 2001 when he was recognized while working as an investigator for the legal team defending former Rwandan army officer Samuel Imanishimwe. Nchamihigo was working with false identity papers under the name of Bahati Weza.

 

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