Rwanda genocide case in German spotlight

2015-05-21 21:08

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Berlin - A Rwandan already behind bars for assisting a massacre in Rwanda could face life in prison after Germany's top court said he was also guilty of the graver crime of actively participating in genocide.

Onesphore Rwabukombe, who has lived in Germany since 2002, was a mayor in north Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide, in which an estimated 800 000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by dominant Hutu forces in 100 days.

A Frankfurt court last year ruled that Rwabukombe, an ethnic Hutu, had overseen and assisted in the murder of at least 450 men, women and children at the Kiziguro church compound in east Rwanda, and sentenced him to 14 years in jail. He was not found guilty of killing anyone himself.

However, the Bundesgerichtshof, or Federal Court of Justice, said on Thursday after hearing appeals from both sides that he had also been actively involved in the killings and referred the case back to the lower Frankfurt court.

Tried suspects

The higher court in Karlsruhe cited evidence from the original three-year trial, in which more than 100 witnesses described scenes of slaughter with attackers using machetes, sticks and hatchets and directed in part by Rwabukombe.

They described him driving militia men to the site of the massacre in his own pick-up truck and ordering the attackers to "get to work".

After the 1994 genocide, traditional community courts in Rwanda dealt with about two million cases and assisted in reconciliation. The UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Tanzania, has also tried suspects.

Read more on:    germany  |  rwanda  |  east africa

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