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Court sentences 11 to death for genocide

A court in Rwanda's southern province of Butare on Friday sentenced 11 people to death and 73 others to life imprisonment in a mass trial involving 142 people accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide.

The Court of First Instance found the convicts guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity committed from April-June 1994 in the central African nation. Militant Hutus killed at least 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus during this period. The court also sentenced 21 people to between one and 25 years in prison and acquitted 37 others who included women and a Roman Catholic archdeacon.

"I think it was a fair trial though I still expected better results," Innocent Neshimana, one of the defence lawyers, told reporters. "We plan to appeal in the cases where the death penalty was handed down."

"I am disappointed with the judgment because the judges never followed my testimony," Pascal Nsabimana, a former primary school teacher who was sentenced to death, said. "There was a lot of bias and I detest the outcome."

He said he would appeal against the sentence.

Although he was pleased with the trial's outcome, state prosecutor Apolinel Gakombe said he would appeal against some of the acquittals. "I think there are instances where the court was too lenient," he told reporters.

The convicted include teachers, former mayors, farmers and businessmen.

Gikonko District, where the sentences were passed, lost at least 50,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the genocide. At least 100,000 genocide suspects are in Rwandan jails awaiting trial. The government opted for large joint genocide trials in order to reduce the backlog of pending cases. In 2002, the country introduced a traditional form of jurisdiction, known as "Gacaca" to speed up the trials. Gacaca involves trial of the suspects by communal courts.

Officials in the ministry of justice said that up to 6,500 people have been convicted of crimes linked to the genocide, with up to 700 getting the death sentences. Only 23 death sentences have so far been executed.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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