13 July 2007 A former mayor pleaded guilty today before the United Nations war crimes tribunal for the Rwandan genocide to a charge of extermination as a crime against humanity over his role in the mass killings that engulfed the small country in 1994.
Juvénal Rugambarara, who was mayor of Bicumbi commune in Kigali-Rural Prefecture in Rwanda from September 1993 to late April 1994, made the plea to the single charge after two years of negotiations with prosecutors, who agreed to withdraw eight other charges that included genocide, torture and rape.
Addressing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which sits in Arusha, Tanzania, after pleading guilty, Mr. Rugambarara apologized for his actions in the genocide.
“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’,” he said.
The ICTR found that Mr. Rugambarara failed as mayor to take the necessary and reasonable measures to establish an investigation into the killings committed in Bicumbi commune or to apprehend and punish the perpetrators.
The trial chamber – Judges Asoka de Silva (presiding), Taghrid Hikmet and Seon Ri Park – has scheduled a sentencing hearing for Mr. Rugambarara for 17 September.
Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered, mostly by machete or club, across Rwanda in less than 100 days starting in early April 1994. Later that year the Security Council established the ICTR to deal with the worst cases.