UN court overturns another Rwandan genocide conviction

Twenty years after the small African nation of Rwanda descended into a frenzy of killing, a special United Nations court announced Tuesday that two high-ranking Rwandan officers convicted of taking part in the 1994 genocide had been acquitted on appeal. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/12/world/africa/un-court-on-appeal-acquits-2-rwandans-in-1994-genocide.html?ref=world
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha, Tanzania, said that Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former chief of staff of the Rwandan paramilitary police, and François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, the former commander of a military reconnaissance battalion, were not guilty of the charges.
Mr. Ndindiliyimana was one of the highest-ranking officers convicted of taking part in the genocide. He was tried alongside Augustin Bizimungu, Rwanda’s former army chief of staff, who was sentenced in 2011 to 30 years in prison. General Bizimungu also appealed his conviction; the special court has requested more information in the case.
Commemorations of the 20th anniversary of the genocide, in which 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in just 100 days, have already begun, even as efforts to find and punish those responsible go on.
Last week in Paris, a French court opened the genocide trial of a former Rwandan intelligence chief in the first prosecution there of former officials and others who fled Rwanda.
While international courts have been handling the biggest cases, people accused of being lower-level perpetrators are tried in Rwandan community courts known as gacacas. Ten years ago, President Paul Kagame released tens of thousands of people from jail and ordered them to face the traditional courts, where killers have publicly confessed to slaying neighbors and even friends, as part of a broader search for reconciliation.
Mr. Ndindiliyimana, who was arrested in Belgium in 2000, was convicted in 2011 of genocide, extermination as a crime against humanity and murder, and he was sentenced to 11 years. He was freed after time served.
The trial chamber initially ruled that police officers assigned to guard Mr. Ndindiliyimana’s home in Rwanda had provided weapons to Interahamwe — the Hutu militia that carried out the genocide against the Tutsis — and assisted in a deadly attack on Kansi Parish. “The appeals chamber finds that the trial chamber erred in concluding that Ndindiliyimana exercised effective control over the gendarmes,” the court said Tuesday, adding that it was not clear whether the police officers in question had participated in the Kansi attack.
The court also found that Mr. Ndindiliyimana did not appear to have had control over a group of police officers involved in a separate attack on St.-André College in April 1994 because “the operational command over the majority of gendarmerie units was transferred to the Rwandan Army” by that point.
Mr. Nzuwonemeye was arrested in France in 2000. He was convicted of aiding and abetting in the 1994 killing of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana as well as the killing of Belgian peacekeepers. “Not all Rwandan Army soldiers who were in the vicinity of the prime minister’s residence were searching for her or contributed to her killing,” the special court found in acquitting him of that charge.
The court also overturned Mr. Nzuwonemeye’s conviction in the case of the peacekeepers. The conviction of his deputy, Innocent Sagahutu, for aiding and abetting in their deaths was upheld, but his conviction for their murder was overturned.

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