Rwandan ex-pastor jailed for life over genocide crimes

Rwanda jails ex-pastor for life for killings of people sheltering in his church during 1994 genocide

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Jean Uwinkindi was found guilty in Kigali's High Court of "genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity"

A Rwandan court sentenced a former Pentecostal pastor to life in prison over leading and coordinating the massacre of Tutsi Rwandans sheltering in his church during the 1994 genocide, reports stated on Thursday.

Kigali’s High Court found the pastor Jean Uwinkindi guilty of "genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity" during the 100-day massacre that started in April 1994 and killed 800,000 people.

"The court rules that Uwinkindi is guilty of murder as a crime of genocide, and extermination as a crime against humanity, he must therefore be punished with life imprisonment," Judge Timothee Kanyegeri said in his ruling on Wednesday, according to local newspaper.

Uwinkindi pleaded not guilty and said that he would appeal the verdict.

"I want it recorded that I appeal," he said.

The prosecution said that about 150 ethnic Tutsi Rwandans sought shelter at Uwinkindi’s church at Kayenzi, nearly 20 km (12 miles) west of Kigali.

"The court finds that there were killings of the Tutsi at Rwankeri and Kanzenze hills and the attacks were led by Uwinkindi," Kanyegeri said.

Uwinkindi, 64, was transferred back to Rwanda to be put on trial from a UN-backed court in Tanzania.

In 2011, after Uwinkindi was arrested in Uganda, he was first sent to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Tanzania, then handed back to stand trial in Rwanda in April 2012.

At that time, the ICTR said that legal reforms in Rwanda, such as scrapping the death penalty for genocide suspects held in Tanzania or at large, had made the transfer possible.

The ICTR has since closed.

TRTWorld and agencies