Survivors of Rwanda’s genocide and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have welcomed the life sentence given to its mastermind Theoneste Bagosora. Bagosora and two co-defendants were found by a UN tribunal to have led a committee that plotted the massacre of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Mr Ban said the sentences were a “major step in the fight against impunity”. It is the first time the Rwanda tribunal has convicted anyone of organising the killings.

More than 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda’s genocide. Along with Bagosora, former military commanders Anatole Nsegiyumva and Alloys Ntabakuze were also found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and given life sentences.

The head of Rwanda’s genocide survivors’ association Ibuka Benoit Kaboyi said the convictions showed the criminal masterminds would not go unpunished.

However, the BBC’s Geoffrey Mutagoma in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, says many ordinary genocide survivors were unaware of the case. Mr Kaboyi told the BBC this was because many had little faith in the justice system.

“The justice which cannot compensate them, the justice which only takes a few people to be prosecuted.” Earlier, the Rwandan government said it was “satisfied” with the court’s decision to impose a life sentence on Bagosora.

Bagosora, 67, and the two senior military officers were found to have organised, trained and armed the Interahamwe militia, which was responsible for most of the killing.

They were also responsible for drawing up a list of Tutsis and moderate Hutus who opposed their vision of an ethnically pure Rwanda. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Tanzania, rejected the defence’s argument that the killing was not organised, and therefore not genocide.

Bagosora’s lawyer, Raphael Constant, said his client would appeal against the verdict. 



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