[JURIST] The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) [official website] on Tuesday convicted former Rwandan army chief Augustin Bizimungu and three others involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive]. Bizimungu was sentenced to 30 years in prison while two others, Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Innocent Sagahutu, to 20 years in prison and Augustin Ndindiliyimana to time served since his arrest in 2000. Bizimungu was found guilty on six counts of genocide and crimes against humanity for murder, extermination and rape in addition of violations of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions [text]. However, all four were acquitted on the charge of conspiracy to commit genocide with the court saying that it did not believe the prosecution had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the all four were involved in such a conspiracy. Bizimungu was arrested in August of 2002 in Angola and transferred to the tribunal in in 2004. During the genocide, Bizimungu ordered soldiers and policeman to exterminate [HRW report] tens of thousands of Tutsi civilians who had taken refuge in churches, hospitals and schools. The soldiers and police also forced ordinary civilians to join in the hunting down and killing of Tutsis under the threat of punishment.
Last December, the ICTR sentenced [JURIST report] former Rwandan Armed Forces lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana to life imprisonment after convicting him on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The court found Hategekimana guilty of three counts of genocide stemming from his involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, specifically in the massacre of civilian Tutsis in the Rwandan town of Butare. Last month, the ICTR removed US lawyer and JURIST Forum [website] contributor Peter Erlinder [professional profile; JURIST news archive] from his position as an ICTR defense lawyer. The appeals chamber said the dismissal was due to Erlinder’s failure to appear at a tribunal and cited Rule 46 of the ICTR Rules of Procedure and Evidence [text] which allows the court impose sanctions for lawyer’s misconduct. Erlinder argues [JURIST op-ed] the dismissal was part of a wider history of institutional bias that has helped the Rwandan government label him and other defense counsel “genocide deniers” subject to official threats of arrest and even death.