18 jailed for Rwanda church massacre

A Rwandan court has convicted 18 people for their role in the killing of 20,000 men, women and children sheltering in a church compound during the 1994 genocide.

A Rwandan court has convicted 18 people for their role in the killing of 20,000 men, women and children sheltering in a church compound during the 1994 genocide.

The court also found one other defendant guilty of a lesser charge of stealing property during the genocide and ordered him to compensate his victims, said Judge Moise Ruzezwa who presided over the case.

The court in Kibungo province sentenced the 18 men to prison terms ranging from seven to 25 years for the killings, Ruzezwa said by telephone from the province, which is 60 miles south east of the capital, Kigali.

“They confessed in court that they played a role in the killing, that is why the sentences were lenient when compared to the maximum penalty of death or life imprisonment,” Ruzezwa said.

Prosecutors said the accused joined members of the former government army, the police and extremist Hutu militias who attacked Nyarubuye Roman Catholic church and surrounding buildings in its compound on April 15, 1994.

“They attacked people sheltering there and killed indiscriminately using spears, machetes, clubs, hand grenades and automatic weapons,” Ruzezwa said.

The feared leader of the group, who shouted instructions at others to kill, Gitera Rwamuhizi, was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to killing 10 people.

More than 500,000 people were killed during the genocide in Rwanda, mainly minority Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority.

The 100-day slaughter was spurred by the extremist Hutu government then in power. The mass killings ended when Tutsi-led rebels took control of the central African country.

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