The Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) today accepted a guilty plea of Vincent Rutaganira former Councillor of Mubuga, Gishyita Commune, to the charge of extermination as a crime against humanity as contained in the plea agreement between the Prosecutor and the accused. The Prosecutor requested the acquittal of the accused of the other charges contained in the indictment. The Trial Chamber directed the Registrar to set the date of 17 January 2005 for the sentencing. Rutaganira is the fourth person indicted by the ICTR to plead guilty to participating in the Rwandan genocide.
The Trial Chamber III, composed of Presiding Judge Andresia Vaz (Senegal), Judge Flavia Lattanzi (Italy) and Judge Florence Rita Arrey (Cameroon), recognized that the accused was fully aware of his guilty plea which he made voluntarily without any coercion. It also noted that the accused knew the consequences of his plea. Under the plea agreement made 7 December 2004 with the ICTR Prosecutor, Rutaganira acknowledged full responsibility of omissions in connection with the deaths of thousands of Tutsi civilians who took refuge at the Mubuga Church in Kibuye province of Rwanda between 8 and 15 April 1994. Rutaganira admitted that he took no action to protect Tutsi refugees in the commune where he was a government official during the genocide.
In a 6 May 1996 amended indictment, Rutaganira was charged with seven counts including genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder, extermination and other inhumane acts, serious violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and serious violations of Additional Protocol II. The Prosecutor requested the dismissal of all but the extermination charge.
Rutaganira, who surrendered to the Tribunal on 18 February 2002, said he pleaded guilty to express his regret and apologies for the offences that he abetted as an accomplice by his omission to act during the genocide. He said he also wanted to contribute to search for the full truth about the genocide as a way to promote reconciliation in Rwanda.
The Prosecutor urged the judges to consider Rutaganira’s lack of personal participation in the killings, his advanced age, poor health and family situation in handing down its sentence. Rutaganira, 60, suffers from diabetes. In a brief to the Chamber, Rutaganira reported that he has ten children and that his wife holds a position in the new government of Rwanda.
Under the agreement, the Prosecutor pledged not to refer Rutaganira’s case to any other jurisdiction and to support any application he might make to serve his sentence in a prison facility in Europe or in the Kingdom of Swaziland.