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Rwanda genocide tribunal sentences former mayor to life in prison

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Tuesday sentenced [press release] Jean-Baptiste Gatete to life imprisonment, the highest sentence meted out by the ICTR, for his involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Gatete, the former Mayor of Murambi Commune in Byumba prefecture, has been on trial since October 2009 and was one of several prominent cases not transferred to Rwandan authorities [JURIST reports] in June 2010. He was found guilty on all charges: genocide, or, in the alternative, complicity in genocide; conspiracy to commit genocide; and the crimes against humanity of extermination, murder, and rape. It was held that Gatete both murdered, and carried out orders to rape and murder, thousands of Tutsi citizens. Minister of Justice and Attorney-General for Rwanda Tharcisse Karugarama said the government was pleased with the verdict [New Times report]. The official record will be posted [case materials] on the ICTR's website in the future.

As leader of the Interahamwe, a Hutu paramilitary group, Gatete was found responsible for the massacre of 6,000 Tutsis who had taken refuge in Kiziguro and Mukarange Churches, as well as ordering the widespread rape of women in the parishes. Gatete was arrested [UN News Centre report] in the Republic of Congo in September 2002 and was transferred by Congolese authorities to the UN detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania. In accordance with the completion strategy [text, PDF] of the ICTR, the prosecution requested to transfer Gatete to the national jurisdiction of Rwanda, but the request was denied in November 2008. The ICTR has received criticism for its refusal to transfer cases to Rwanda. Rwandan Prosecutor General Martin Ngoga addressed [press release] the UN Security Council [official website] in June and stated that the ICTR's decision not to transfer pending cases to Rwandan jurisdiction, including Gatete, undermined his country's judicial reforms and hindered national reconciliation.

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