French court jails two ex-Rwandan mayors for life over genocide

2016-07-07 05:36
A sketch shows Tito Barahira at the Paris courthouse.  (Benoit Peyrucq, AFP)

A sketch shows Tito Barahira at the Paris courthouse. (Benoit Peyrucq, AFP)

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Paris - In a landmark ruling, a Paris court jailed for life on Wednesday two former Rwandan mayors accused of orchestrating the massacre of hundreds of Tutsis during the country's 1994 genocide.

The court said Octavien Ngenzi, 58, and his predecessor Tito Barahira, 64, were guilty of "crimes against humanity", "massive and systematic summary executions" and "genocide" in their village of Kabarondo, where about 2 000 people seeking refuge in a church were bludgeoned and hacked to death.

It was the stiffest genocide sentence handed out by a French court to date. In 2014, former army captain Pascal Simbikangwa got 25 years in solitary confinement for genocide and crimes against humanity.

The eight-week trial has heard chilling testimony depicting the two men as "supervisors" and "executioners" in the massacre at the height of the genocide in which 800 000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were killed by Hutu extremists.

"Ngenzi was the leader," said prosecutor Philippe Courroye, who requested life sentences for the two men. Barahira was the "dreaded machete officer".

Ngenzi and Barahira denied the charges.

Their lawyers have pointed to contradictory testimony 22 years after the killings to argue that reasonable doubt exists over the defendants' role, portraying them as having been helpless to stop the chaos unfolding around them.

Read more on:    france  |  rwanda
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