Trial Chamber I today sentenced Georges Henry Joseph Ruggiu, a former journalist and broadcaster with Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) to 12 years in prison after being found guilty on two counts charging him with direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 12 in prison for the first count, and to 12 years for the second count. The Chamber decided that he shall serve his multiple sentences concurrently.
The Trial Chamber composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay, presiding, Erik Møse and Pavel Dolenc ruled that his sentence shall be enforced immediately and that he shall be kept in detention until his transfer to the place of his imprisonment which will be served in a state designated by the President of the Tribunal, in consultation with the Trial Chamber. The period of time the accused was detained in custody shall be deducted from his sentence. The accused was arrested in Kenya on 23 July 1997.
Ruggiu, born on 12 October 1957 in Verviers province of Liege, Belgium worked with RTLM from 6 January 1994 to 14 July 1994, during the time of genocide in Rwanda. Ruggiu, the first non-Rwandese to be charged by the Tribunal, had changed his plea to guilty to the two counts on 15 May 2000.
Issuing the verdict, the Trial Chamber I said it took into account such factors as the gravity of the offence and the individual circumstances of the convicted person, as well as the mitigating and aggravating factors in the case. Before sentencing him, the Trial Chamber noted that the guilty plea was based on sufficient facts, firstly for the crimes charged and, secondly, for the participation of the accused in them.
In sentencing, the Trial Chamber first took into account the aggravating factors which included the gravity of the offences. It noted that genocide and crimes against humanity were inherently aggravating offences because they were heinous in nature and shocked the collective conscience of mankind.
Another aggravating factor considered was the important role the accused played in the commission of the offences. The Trial Chamber noted that the accused in his capacity as a journalist played a crucial role in the incitement of ethnic hatred and violence that RTLM vigorously pursued. "Through his broadcasts at the RTLM, he encouraged setting up of road blocks and congratulated perpetrators of massacres of the Tutsi at these road blocks."
The Trial Chamber further noted that his broadcasts continued to call upon the population, particularly the military and the Interahamwe militia to finish off the 1959 revolution which was the incitement of the massacre of the entire Tutsi population.
The last aggravating factor noted was that Ruggiu continued to work for RTLM and to incite hatred against Tutsis, Hutu political opponents and Belgians, even after he became aware that the broadcasts of the RTLM were contributing to the massacres.
The Trial Chamber said that the mitigating factors which it had taken into account in the case included the accused plea of guilty, saying it facilitated the administration of justice in terms of expediting proceedings and saving resources.
It noted that the plea reflected Ruggiu's genuine awareness of his guilt, especially since he had opted not to plead guilty from the outset. It added that the acknowledgment by the accused of his mistakes or crimes was a healthy application of reason and sentiment, which illustrates the beginning of repentance. It acknowledged that the accused was also fully aware of the very real and direct threat to his personal safety that a guilty plea would cause.
Other mitigating factors noted by the Trial Chamber included the cooperation of the accused with the Prosecution; absence of any previous criminal record; character of accused, and that he had expressed regret and remorse. It noted that under questioning, the accused on several occasions spoke of feeling an overwhelming and enduring sense of not only regret, but also remorse. The accused stated that "In Rwanda I lost everything including my honour."
The Trial Chamber further noted that other mitigating factors included the fact that the accused never participated in the killings and that he did not hold a position of any authority in Rwanda, nor a senior position within RTLM. Ruggiu is also said to have undertaken some humanitarian work on behalf of young children and political victims.
The testimony of two Defence witnesses was also taken into account. The two witnesses were found credible by the Trial Chamber which accepted that the accused was a person of good character imbued with ideals, even though these ideals proved to be misguided.
Ruggiu is the eighth accused person to be convicted by the Tribunal and the third to plead guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda in 1994.