German court sentences man to life in Rwandan Genocide case

German court sentences former Rwandan mayor for life in prison, accused of taking part in Rwandan Genocide

Photo by: Reuters (Archive)
Photo by: Reuters (Archive)

Rwandan defendant Onesphore R. waits for the start of his trial in a courtroom in Frankfurt

A man guilty of taking part in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide has been sentenced to life in prison by a German court on Tuesday following evidence of actively participating in the massacre.

The man sentenced, Onesphore Rwabukombe, has lived in Germany since 2002, and was also a former mayor in Rwanda during the genocide in which about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis were massacred by dominant Hutus within 100 days. 

In May, a Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe accused Rwabukombe of taking part in the killings in the central African state, and referred the case back to Frankfurt.

The court in Frankfurt gathered testimony from more than 100 witnesses who described Rwabukombe as someone who gave attackers orders to kill using machetes, sticks and hatchets.

"He knowingly and deliberately prepared, organised, commanded and carried out the massacre with the other authorities," said the court in a statement, also adding that he was disputed even being at the site of the genocide.

"The especially grave nature of the guilt of the accused is a consequence of the great number of victims and extent of suffering and torment inflicted on those killed over a period of many hours," said the court.

Last year, Rwabukombe was accused of taking part in the murder of at least 450 men, women and children at the Kiziguro church compound in east Rwanda and was sentenced to 14 years in prison, however, he was not found guilty of killing anyone himself.  

The case was Germany’s first trial related to the Rwandan Genocide and some lawyers say international courts are ready to deal with such cases. Rwanda wants suspects to be extradited to face justice back home.

After the 1994 genocide, courts in Rwanda and a UN backed international Criminal Tribute in Tanzania dealt with about 2 million cases and helped in reconciliation.  

TRTWorld and agencies