The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Thursday convicted former Rwandan army colonel Theoneste Bagosora on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
A chief organizer of the 1994 Rwandan genocide has been sentenced to life in prison.
The United Nations has described Bagosora, who was a top official in Rwanda's defense ministry, as one of the main instigators of the massacres that killed some 800,000 people.
The U.N.-backed tribunal ruled today that Bagosora was responsible for organized killings of ethnic Tutsis around the capital, Kigali, and the city of Gisenyi.
It also held him responsible for the killing of 10 Belgian peacekeepers and several politicians, including Rwanda's former prime minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana.
Survivors of the genocide and human rights groups praised the court's decision. Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch says the verdict sends a message to tyrants that they cannot escape from justice.
The tribunal today gave life sentences to two other former army officers, Anatole Nsengiyumva and Aloys Ntabakuze, in connection with the genocide. Another officer, General Gratien Kabiligi, was acquitted of all charges.
Earlier, the court sentenced Protais Zigiranyirazo, the brother-in-law of Rwanda's former president, to 20 years in jail following convictions for genocide and extermination.
The genocide began almost immediately after the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down on April 6, 1994.
The Canadian who led U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire, has described Bagosora as an extremist Hutu who declared the army in charge of the country.
In a recent interview, Dallaire told U.S. broadcaster CNN that within hours of that decree, government troops and civilian death squads began slaughtering Tutsis.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.