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International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentences former Rwandan prosecutor to life imprisonment

Yesterday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) sentenced Siméon Nchamihigo to life in prison for acts committed during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 (see press release).

The third Trial Chamber of the Tribunal found him guilty of genocide, extermination, murder and other inhumane act as crimes against humanity. The case is of particular importance because Nchamihigo was the former Deputy Prosecutor in Cyangugu Prefecture in Rwanda.

According to the Chamber, Nchamihigo, ordered a Hutu militia to kill Tutsi with a view to eliminating the ethnic group of the Tutsi. The Chamber also established that Nchamihigo attended the meetings of the prefecture Security Council where some of the massacres were planned. In total, the Chamber found that the former prosecutor was responsible for the killing of more than 2000 Tutsi’s in only four days.

The Chamber considered the “prominent public position of trust” Nchamihigo had as a Rwandan prosecutor as an aggravating factor in this case. According to the Court, because of his role in the judicial system, Nchamihigo was expected “to uphold the rule of law and principles of morality”. Given the absence of relevant mitigating circumstances, the Court decided to apply the highest available penalty.

Interestingly, Nchamihigo had worked at the Tribunal from 1998 onwards as a member of the defense team of another defendant accused of genocide. Acting under a false identity, he was only arrested because a witness at one of the trials recognized him as one of the organizers of the mass murders. This incident gave rise to serious questions about security at the Tribunal (see also the following article).

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