Rwandan genocide court sentences 8 to death, 14 to prison

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The Independent Online

A Rwandan court has sentenced eight people to death and another 14 to prison terms after finding them guilty of planning and executing the country's 1994 genocide, state-run Radio Rwanda reported Sunday.

The sentences were handed down Friday, a day before Rwanda began annual commemorations for more than a half-million minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus killed during the 90-day slaughter from April to July 1994 on orders of an extremist Hutu government.

Of 28 individuals charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, six were acquitted and seven received life in prison, the radio said. Three others got 20-year prison terms, and two got 15 and 11 years in prison each. The report did not say how the remaining two were sentenced. In addition, the defendants were ordered to pay a total of $500,000 to 30 families of victims who sought compensation, the radio said.

In the past, those convicted of organizing the Hutu death mobs who killed Tutsi women, men and children received automatic death sentences, while prison terms were reserved for those who followed the orders of others.

The massacres ended when the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front won power in July 1994, then formed the government of national unity comprising both Hutus and Tutsis.

The radio said that among those sentenced to death was the mayor of Gisuma in Cyangugu Prefecture, Theoneste Rukeratabar, and a school inspector.

More than 125,000 genocide suspects are awaiting trial in Rwandan jails. Since 1996, more than 2,500 have been sentenced, 300 of them to death. On April 24, 1998, the first 22 death convicts were publicly executed. There have been no executions since, although the government did not rule them out.

The U.N. Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has been trying top genocide suspects separately in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha. The maximum sentence the tribunal can impose is life in prison.