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Tribunal Sentences Muhimana to Life Imprisonment

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, today sentenced Mikaeli Muhimana to imprisonment for the remainder of his life after finding him guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity. Trial Chamber III found Muhimana, a former Conseiller of Gishyita Sector in Kibuye Prefecture, guilty on three counts: genocide, rape as a crime against humanity and murder as a crime against humanity.

The Chamber dismissed Count 2, complicity in genocide, that was included in the four-count indictment which was amended on 21 January 2004.

In handing down the maximum sentence, the Chamber considered the many aggravating circumstances of his crimes including the fact that Muhimana participated in attacks against Tutsi civilians who had sought refuge in churches and a hospital, traditionally regarded as places of sanctuary and safety.

The Chamber found Muhimana guilty of murdering several Tutsi civilians, including a pregnant woman who he disemboweled so that he could see what the foetus looks like in its mother’s womb. He then used a machete to 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.

Muhimana was charged with the mobilization of assailants and the distribution of guns and grenades between 14 and 15 April 1994. The Prosecution charged that in June 1994, the accused lured Tutsi civilians out of their hiding places in Kibuye prefecture, with the promise of medication. However, instead of humanitarian aid, the accused brought armed assailants, who attacked the Tutsi civilians, killing more than two thousand.

The Chamber found that Muhimana’s active participation in the decapitation of Assiel Kabanda, and the subsequent public display of his severed head also constituted an aggravating factor. Muhimana was found criminally liable for committing and abetting rapes as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the Tutsi civilian population. He personally raped several Tutsi women in his home and at other locations. He also raped a girl whom he believed to be Tutsi, and apologized to her when he later found out that she was Hutu.

Born in 1961, Muhimana was a businessman before he was appointed counseiller of Gishyita sector in 1990. He was arrested on November 8 1999 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha. 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.

Trial Chamber III is composed of Judge Khalida Rashid Khan of Pakistan (presiding), Judge Lee Gaciuga Muthoga of Kenya and Judge Emile Francis Short of Ghana. The Prosecution was conducted by Charles Philips Adeogun, Wallace Kapaya and Peter Tafah. Muhimana was represented by James Nyabirungu Mwene Songa and Kazadi Kabimba both from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The conviction of Muhimana brings the number of accused whose trials have been completed to 25. The Tribunal has found 22 accused guilty and has acquitted three.

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