ARUSHA (Internews) — The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on April 28, 2005 sentenced to imprisonment for remainder of his life former councilor of Gishyita sector, Kibuye, Western Rwanda for his personal involvement in the killings and rape during the 1994 genocide.
The sentence is the highest possible under the UN statute.
Presiding judge Khalida Rashid Khan said that ‘Mikaeli Muhimana’s crimes ranks among the gravest and deserves a heavy sentence.’
She said that the chamber had found beyond any reasonable doubt that the former councilor physically participated in the 1994 massacre by shooting to death mostly Tutsi victims.
The accused also raped several Tutsi women and encouraged other men to commit such horrendous acts in Gishyita town.
‘Instead of using his influential position to promote peace and reconciliation, he actively participated in the atrocities,’ stated the judge.
In one of the cases, the presiding judge noted that Muhimana raped a Tutsi woman in Mushoga Church, where refugees had sought shelter.’ In another case, he raped a woman identified as only ‘VJ’ thinking was a Tutsi, but later apologized to her when learning that she was a Hutu.’
‘The accused took two Tutsi women into his house and raped them.’ Thereafter, he drove them outside and invited Interahamwe militia men to see how naked Tutsi women looked like.
Muhimana also disemboweled a pregnant woman so that he could see what the foetus looks like in its mother’s womb. He then cut the woman from her breasts down to her genitals and removed the baby who cried for some time before dying. After disemboweling the woman, the assailants accompanying Muhimana then cut off her arms and stuck sharpened sticks into them.’ the judge added.
The chamber found Muhimana guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity (rape and murder) but acquitted him of complicity in genocide.
Charles Adeogun Philips, senior trial attorney, said that he was satisfied with the sentencing.’ Muhimana deserves the highest sentence for his cruel deeds.’
The defence of Muhimana has not indicated whether they will appeal against the ruling or not.
Muhimana was arrested in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on November 8, 1999 and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha, northern part of the East African country. He had pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The trial started on 29 March 2004. In the course of 34 trial days, the chamber heard 52 witnesses, 19 for the prosecution and 33 for the accused.
Muhimana’s conviction brings the number of suspects already sentenced to 25, including three acquittals.
Alloys Mutabingwa, Rwanda government’s special representative to ICTR said that he was happy of the verdict.’ This has been straight case and clear of evidence. This is the most notorious person, was not acting as an ordinary genocidaire but a devil.’
There are currently trials going on for 25 detainees.
More than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the 101-day slaughter which began on April 6, 1994 after unknown assailants gunned down the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana near the capital, Kigali.