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Finland court hears Rwandan genocide appeal

A Finnish appeals court on Monday began hearing the appeal of former Rwandan pastor Francois Bazaramba [Trial Watch profile], convicted [JURIST report] last year on charges relating to his involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [HRW backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Although Bazaramba had denied charges of involvement in the genocide, the court found that he ordered the killing of at least five Tutsis and sentenced him to life in prison. He was also acquitted of several charges. Bazaramba's case was the first time a genocide case had been heard in Finland. 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], citing the possibility that Rwandan authorities would be unable to ensure a fair trial. Bazaramba was charged in June 2009, and his trial began that September [JURIST reports]. Both sides appealed the verdict in April.

Finland is not the only country to try suspects accused of crimes related to the genocide. In January, a German court began the trial [JURIST report] of a former Rwandan mayor on genocide charges. Onesphore Rwabukombe [Trial Watch profile], a 54-year-old ethnic Hutu, allegedly coordinated three massacres in which more than 3,700 Tutsis, who had sought refuge in a church, were killed. Canadian prosecutors announced in 2009 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 2009, he was sentenced to life imprisonment [JURIST report] for war crimes committed during the Rwandan genocide. Munyaneza was convicted [JURIST report] of seven counts of genocide, crimes against humanit, and war crimes under the act.

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