Rwanda Genocide Trial Closes

rwanda.jpg[Guardian] After 5 years, the trial of Théoneste Bagosora, the alleged mastermind of the Rwandan genocide, ended today with the 65-year-old former colonel insisting he was “a victim of ignominious propaganda.” Together with three other top army commanders, Mr Bagosora was accused of planning and coordinating the slaughter by Hutus of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994.

The sentence will be delivered within a year. There is no penalty severe enough for someone like this.

Prosecutors produced evidence that they said painted a very different picture, that the mass killing that ensued was not a spontaneous act carried out in a time of war against Tutsi rebels, as all four defendants claimed, but one they had planned for years. In 1991, Mr Bagosora, Mr Ntabakuze and Mr Nsengiyumva helped draft a document that described the minority Tutsi ethnic group as the enemy and was widely circulated in the Hutu-dominated army. Together with Mr Kabiligi, the men are also accused of supporting media outlets that spread the hate messages, and drawing up lists of victims.

At dawn on April 7 1994, Mr Bagosora is alleged to have given the order for the genocide to start. Hutu soldiers sexually assaulted and shot dead the Tutsi prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, and hours later, three other opposition cabinet ministers were killed with their families. In a move allegedly designed to push the UN out of Rwanda, ten Belgian peacekeepers were also killed.

General Romeo Dallaire, the UN commander in Rwanda and one of the prosecution’s 82 witnesses, said that while these murders were occurring, Mr Bagosora was calmly sitting behind his desk as if everything was going to plan.

Arrested in Cameroon in 1996 and charged a year later, Mr Bagosora made little attempt to win over the three judges. Asked to illustrate how a subordinate would carry out an order, he gave the example of assigning someone to kill a member of the courtroom. Asked about a report that he had appeared at roadblocks alongside the death squads, he said it was an insult to a man of his rank.

Referring to a prosecution statement comparing him to Hitler, he said, “Neither Hitler, Himmler or Goering ever went running around in Berlin to flush out Jews to be killed,” he said. He refused to acknowledge the genocide, instead referring to “excessive massacres”.

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