Juvenal Rugambarara, the former Mayor of Bicumbi commune in Kigali-Rural Prefecture, today pleaded guilty to a single count of extermination as a crime against humanity before Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Rugambarara ’s guilty plea follows two years of negotiations with the Office of the Prosecutor, leading to an agreement on 13 June 2007 in which the Prosecutor agreed to withdraw eight of the original nine counts confirmed against the accused.
“I pay sincere tribute to all the innocent victims of the shameful cowardice and humbly bow and plead for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart. … I solemnly pledge to join the rallying cry of those who say ‘never again’,” the accused told the Trial Chamber. He expressed his remorse for participating in the genocide and asked for forgiveness from the people of his commune.
Rugambarara was initially charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, three counts of crimes against humanity (extermination, torture, rape) and two counts of serious violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and to Additional Protocol II.
The Trial Chamber found Rugambarara guilty of extermination because he failed, in his capacity as Mayor, to take necessary and reasonable measures to commission an investigation into the crimes committed in the commune and for the apprehension and punishment of the perpetrators.
Juvenal Rugambarara was arrested in Uganda on 11 August 2003 and transferred to the Tribunal on 13 August 2003. He made his initial appearance before the Trial Chamber on 15 August 2003 and pleaded not guilty to all nine charges. On 12 June 2007, the Prosecutor filed a request to amend the indictment by withdrawing eight charges and other factual allegations against the Accused. The Prosecutor’s request was granted by the Trial Chamber on 28 June 2007.
The Accused was born in 1959 in Bumba secteur, Tare commune, Kigali-Rural Prefecture. He lived most of his adult life in Bicumbi commune where he worked as a medical officer. He was appointed Mayor of Bicumbi commune on 4 August 1993 and served from 16 September 1993 until 20 April 1994.
The Trial Chamber, composed of Judges Asoka de Silva ( Sri Lanka) (Presiding), Taghrid Hikmet ( Jordan) and Seon Ki Park ( Korea), scheduled a sentencing hearing for 17 September 2007.
Juvenal Rugambarara’s plea is the eighth guilty plea before the Tribunal. It also brings the total number of accused persons convicted at the ICTR to 29. Five accused were acquitted.
The Prosecution team is led by Charles Adeogun-Phillips (Nigeria/UK) who led the negotiations in two previous guilty pleas. The Accused is represented by a defence team led by Mr. Maroufa Diabira ( Mauritania).