German court gives Rwandan 14 years for aiding genocide

2014-02-19 11:09

Frankfurt – A German court has sentenced a former Rwandan town mayor to 14 years in jail for aiding genocide in a church massacre of hundreds of people 20 years ago.

The defendant, Onesphore Rwabukombe (56) the former mayor of the town of Muvumba in northeastern Rwanda, showed no visible reaction when he was found guilty yesterday.

At least 400 Tutsi victims were killed in an “extremely brutal manner” with machetes, axes and hoes in the 1994 attack, said presiding judge Thomas Sagebiel.

The court found Rwabukombe had ordered the attack on the church grounds in the nearby town of Kiziguro and later organised the disposal of bodies by dumping them in pits.

It was the first case heard in Germany related to the Rwanda genocide in which about 800 000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were killed between April and July 1994.

Rwabukombe has lived in Germany since 2002 where he had applied for political asylum. He was arrested in 2011 on an Interpol arrest warrant.

Rights group Amnesty International hailed the verdict as an “important signal”.

“In every genocide the perpetrators must expect to be brought to justice,” said its legal expert Patrick Kroker.

The three-year trial had heard nearly 120 witnesses and Germany had sent criminal investigators to Rwanda.

Prosecutors had asked for a term of life in jail over the killings.

“Germany is not a safe haven for accomplices to genocide,” said the head of Germany’s prosecution service, Christian Ritscher.

“We are very pleased that the German court was in a position to carry out this difficult procedure. This was a pilot trial.”

The defence had demanded an acquittal in the trial and defence lawyer Natalie von Wistinghausen said she was planning to appeal.

Germany has prosecuted war criminals from the Nazi era and the former Yugoslavia for genocide, but this was the first time it has tried someone over the Rwandan massacre.

The Frankfurt higher regional court had heard the case because Germany did not want to extradite the defendant to Rwanda, fearing he would not receive a fair trial, and because international courts in The Hague and Tanzania did not ask to handle the case.

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