A Finnish court on Friday convicted former Rwandan pastor Francois Bazaramba [Trial Watch profile] on charges relating to his involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive], sentencing him to life in prison. Bazaramba had denied charges of involvement in the genocide as well as the 15 counts of murder against him, but the court found that he ordered the killing of at least five Tutsis. It also found that he led attacks against Tutsis and spread anti-Tutsi propaganda in order to incite others to commit murder. Bazaramba's case 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 court heard the case under the principle of universal jurisdiction [AI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] after the Finnish government denied the Rwandan extradition request [press release] last February, citing the possibility that Rwandan authorities would be unable to ensure a fair trial. Bazaramba was charged last June and his trial began in September [JURIST reports]. His lawyers have indicated they will appeal the conviction [Al Jazeera report] and sentencing.
Finland is not the first country to try suspects accused of crimes related to the genocide. Canadian prosecutors announced in November that a second suspect had been charged [JURIST report] under Canada's Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act [text, PDF]. The first man charged under the act was Desire Munyaneza [Trial Watch profile]. In October, he was sentenced to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for war crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide. Munyaneza was convicted [JURIST report] in May of seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes under the act. He was arrested [JURIST report] in 2005 by the RCMP after a five-year investigation. The trial, which was briefly postponed [JURIST report] after Munyaneza was beaten by a fellow prison inmate, lasted two years and included evidence from multiple nations. International legal observers expect Munyaneza's trial to set precedent for future war crimes litigation.