13 Feb 2013 – At the ICTR on 30 September 2011, Rwanda's former Trade Minister Justin Mugenzi and former Public Service Minister Prosper Mugiraneza (pictured) were each sentenced to 30 years imprisonment for conspiracy to commit Genocide and for public incitement to commit Genocide.
The conviction focussed in part on their presence at a cabinet meeting on 17 April 1994 at which ministers agreed to sack the Prefect of Butare, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana. Prime Minister Jean Kambanda had criticized the Prefect for being "inactive" and not having killings in his prefecture. Removed from office the next day, the Prefect was then killed. Following his removal, massacres became widespread and systematic in Butare prefecture.
Last week the ICTR Appeals Chamber ruled by majority that while sacking the prefect contributed to an increase in the killing, the interim government could have taken the decision for ‘political and administrative reasons’ rather than necessarily to spread the genocide. Judge Liu Daqun dissented, arguing that the Appeals Chamber decision was without foundation and the convictions should have been upheld. It is a view widely shared by genocide survivors, who cannot understand how ministers in the government which organised the slaughter of their families could now be released.
“Mugenzi and Mugiraneza were cabinet ministers widely understood to have been party to the decision-making of a criminal regime geared to deliver one of the fastest and most thorough genocides of all time. It is therefore understandable that survivors feel confused and hurt by their acquittal,” says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, responsible for the Kigali Genocide Memorial at which some 250,000 victims of the 1994 genocide lie buried.
“The difficulty always with the genocide charge is proving intent – but against the possibility of a decision such as that taken at the ICTR last week, additional charges could have been brought to ensure a conviction even if the genocide charge failed. In their absence, many Rwandans feel a deep loss of faith in the process and strongly believe that justice has not been served. Most of all, they are afraid of the implications when people so closely involved in the genocidal regime walk free.”