A UN court has sentenced the organiser of the 1994 Rwandan genocide that claimed more than 500,000 lives to life in prison.
Theoneste Bagosora was convicted of distributing weapons and directing Hutu soldiers and the notorious Interahamwe militia to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Judge Erik Moses said today that
Bagosora was guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The massacres took place in 1994 after the Rwandan president’s plane was mysteriously shot down over Kigali as he returned home from peace talks with Tutsi-led rebels.
The Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up by the UN in 1997 to try those responsible for the killings.
Bagosora was also found responsible for the deaths of former Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers.
More than 500,000 minority Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority were killed in the 100-day slaughter organised by the extremist Hutu government then in power. Government troops, Hutu militia and ordinary villagers spurred on by hate messages broadcast over the radio went from village to village, butchering men, women and children.
The court was told Bagosora had participated in international talks arranged in the early 1990s with the aim of ending Rwanda’s long-simmering political crisis. Bagosora grew angry with government delegates he deemed soft on Tutsi-led rebels and said he was returning to Rwanda to “prepare the apocalypse”.
By April 1994, he was the second-highest ranking official in the defence department when the killings started.
The violence followed the downing of the president’s plane by still-unknown attackers as he returned home from peace talks with Tutsi-led rebels.
Hours after the crash, the Interahamwe set up roadblocks across Kigali and the next day began killing Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The slaughter eventually ended after Tutsi rebels invaded from neighbouring Uganda and drove out the genocidal forces.
The Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up by the UN in 1994 to try those responsible for the killings and had its first conviction in 1997. There have been 42 judgements, of which six have been acquittals.