Sukhdev Chhatbar/AP
Theoneste Bagosora

Genocide Mastermind Theoneste Bagosora Finally Convicted

December 19, 2008 05:00 PM
by Sarah Amandolare
The International Criminal Court has sentenced a key player in Rwanda’s genocide to life in prison, but concerns over the court’s efficiency and future cases remain.

A Seven-Year Case Closes

Former Rwandan Army Col. Theoneste Bagosora, who orchestrated the mass killing of more than half a million people in 1994, has been convicted of genocide by a United Nations tribunal overseeing the case. Bagosora was handed a life sentence after the court determined he had “used his position as director of Rwanda’s Ministry of Defense to direct Hutu soldiers to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus,” reported the Associated Press.

Two other former military commanders charged with genocide, Anatole Nsegiyumva and Alloys Ntabakuze, also received guilty verdicts and life sentences from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Tanzania, which was established by the United Nations in 1994.

Despite feeling in some way vindicated by Bagosora’s conviction, some Rwandans expressed displeasure with the International Criminal Court for taking so long to bring the former colonel to justice.

Kayigamba Deus of Kigali told the BBC, “We are talking about a court that has existed for many years, squandered billions of dollars and handed out only 33 convictions. I wish such millions had been pumped in the Rwandan justice ministry, we could have at least 75% of genocide cases decided in the last 10 years.”

Others fear future violence in Africa, and worry that international courts will not provide enough protection. Gatsinzi Emmanuel, also of Kigali, told the BBC, “I am still worried about the genocide perpetrators that are moving freely all over the world. Some of them have gone to African countries like Gabon, Burkina Faso and Cameroon, but the ICTR has done nothing to get them.”

As it stands, the ICTR has much on its plate. The court must handle ten new genocide cases in 2009 and is “set to lose seven of its current judges,” according to The Citizen. ICTR president Justice Dennis Byron said the upcoming cases include “trials of suspects arrested in 2007 and 2008.”

Opinion & Analysis: The end of the honeymoon

“Justice has at last caught up” with Bagosora, after a trial that spanned nearly seven years, said an editorial in Rwandan newspaper The New Times. Despite “goading and mocking defence witnesses,” Bagosora and his cohorts now face their own imprisonment, while “the people and country they tried to erase from the face of this world are striving.”

But more must be done to vindicate survivors of the 1994 genocide, according to a report by human rights think-tank African Rights. Director Rakiya Omaar said in a statement that listening to the concerns of survivors is crucial, and help must be given “to protect them from reprisals and further trauma and support those in need of psychological and financial assistance.” Africa Rights issued its report on Dec. 10, a few days before Bagosora received his life sentence, according to IRIN.

Related Topic: Mass murder in Sudan

In October, Sudan arrested janjaweed militia leader Ali Kushayb, who had been charged with “orchestrating mass murder in Darfur” by the international criminal court in 2007, according to an article published in The Seattle Times. The arrest was widely considered to be an attempt by Sudan to polish its image and ward off prosecution of the country’s president Omar Hassan al-Bashir.

In July 2008, the international criminal court filed ten war crimes charges against al-Bashir for his alleged “campaign of murder, rape and mass deportation in Darfur.” In response, the United Nations announced that it would withdraw “non-essential staff from Darfur” due to a perilous lack of security. According to U.K. newspaper the Guardian, the process of issuing an arrest warrant for al-Bashir was expected to take several months.

After the charges were filed against al-Bashir, Reuters provided a chronological list of some of the most noteworthy events in western Sudan’s conflict.

Background: Hutu and Tutsi

Reference: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda


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