Rwandan official receives life sentence for genocide 30 Mar 2011
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sentences Jean-Baptiste Gatete to life imprisonment for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.

Jean-Baptiste Gatete was found guilty of the massacre of hundreds of Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, in the ICTR’s first ruling of the year.

Gatete, an agronomist by profession, was mayor of Murambi, in eastern Rwanda between 1987 and 1993 before he was dismissed following allegations that he persecuted Tutsis. Despite his dismissal, he allegedly continued to exert control over local police, gendarmes and militiamen in the area. A year before the 1994 genocide, Gatete was appointed as director in the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs. The Head of the Ministry, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, stood trial for genocide at the ICTR and the judgment is pending.  

Gatete was arrested in Congo-Brazzaville on 11 September 2002, and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha. His trial began on 20 October 2009.

"The Chamber sentences Jean-Baptiste Gatete to a single sentence of life imprisonment," presiding judge Khalida Rachid Khan announced. Judge Khan said that the Chamber had found beyond reasonable doubt that Gatete was responsible for deaths of hundreds, and possibly thousands, of Tutsis at three different massacre sites in Eastern Rwanda between 7 and 12 April 1994. The Tribunal ruled that he had retained influence in the Murambi region where had served as mayor, and had ordered the massacres of Tutsis in the Rwankuba sector, the Kiziguro parish in Murambi Commune, Byumba prefecture and the Mukarange parish in Kayonza Commune, Kibungo prefecture. In Kiziguro the victims were buried in a mass grave, with some Tutsis forced to help with the throwing of bodies into the grave before being killed themselves, according to the ruling. Gatete and other officials had provided the arms – guns and grenades – used for these attacks to the Interahamwe militias. Judge Khan also stated that the level of coordination involved in the planning of the attacks “could only have been achieved through prior agreement and planning among those involved”. While the Chamber had carefully reviewed and considered the defence evidence, they did not find it sufficient to cast doubt on the evidence given by the prosecution witnesses.

The Rwandan government had attempted to have Gatete transferred to the Rwandan jurisdiction for trial,  but their referral request had been rejected by the ICTY Trial Chamber. The Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama said "The fact that an international court handed him a life sentence only vindicates our request...who knows, maybe he could have received a lighter sentence in our courts, but the important thing is that he was found guilty." He added that the life imprisonment was a “deserved sentence.. He will go where he belongs – away from the public which he sought to exterminate”.

7 April marks the 17th Anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, which resulted in the deaths of least 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus over 100 days in 1994. The 16 year old ICTR is scheduled to complete its mandate at the end of 2012. Eight other cases involving 20 accused, including former government ministers and army generals, are to be completed.

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