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Bisengimana Sentenced to 15 Years Imprisonment

Trial Chamber II of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda today sentenced Paul Bisengimana (58), former Bourgmestre of Gikoro Commune, Kigali-Rural Prefecture, to 15 years in prison after it convicted him of extermination as a crime against humanity. The Chamber ruled that the accused was entitled to credit for the time served since the start of his detention on 4 December 2002.

For purposes of sentencing, the Chamber composed of Judges Arlete Ramaroson, presiding, William H. Sekule and Solomy Bossa, considered as aggravating factors, the gravity of the crimes committed, the official position of the accused as Bourgmestre of Gikoro commune during the events, and the fact that he was an educated person.

The Chamber also found the following factors to be mitigating: the Accused’s guilty plea with publicly expressed remorse, his individual and family situation in the sense it offers him chances of rehabilitation, his good character prior to the events, his lack of prior criminal conviction, his good conduct in detention, and his age and ill health.

As to the form of participation by the Accused, alleged as a mitigating circumstance by the Defence, the Chamber noted that even if Bisengimana did not personally commit any violent act, he was aware that an attack would be launched against the refugees at Musha church using weapons that had been previously distributed, and that he had the means to challenge the killings but chose not to. Moreover, the Chamber recalled that the Accused was present when the attack was launched and more than a thousand people were murdered at Musha Church, and that he knew that his presence would encourage the perpetrators of the crimes. The Chamber also noted that the accused was a person of authority with an obligation to protect the refugees. Therefore, the Chamber rejected this as a mitigating circumstance.

The Chamber also rejected the alleged assistance to victims pleaded by the Defence.

During the Pre-sentencing Hearing on 19 January 2006, the Defence pleaded for a sentence of 12 years imprisonment whereas the Prosecutor pleaded for a sentence of not less than 14 years in prison. The Chamber felt that much as the Accused was not being sentenced for the Count of murder as a crime against humanity, it considered that in light of the official position of Bisengimana and the number of persons killed, more than a thousand in his presence at Musha Church, a stiffer sentence was appropriate.

On 17 November 2005, during his further appearance, the accused pleaded guilty to the Counts of murder and extermination as crimes against humanity. However the Chamber rejected the joint motion for a guilty plea because it contained some discrepancies and the plea was not unequivocal. On 7 December 2005 Bisengimana pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting murder and extermination as crimes against humanity. The Chamber accepted his plea and found him guilty of murder and extermination as crimes against humanity.

Paul Bisengimana was arrested in Mali on 4 December 2001 and transferred to the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha on 11 March 2002. At his initial appearance on 18 March 2002, he pleaded not guilty to all 12 counts against him. On 19 October 2005, the Parties filed a joint motion for a guilty plea.

He was represented by Catherine Mabille from France. The Prosecution was led by Senior Trial Attorney, Charles A. Adeogun-Phillips.

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