The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has convicted a former small-town mayor for genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. The tribunal calls the conviction a victory in its quest to bring justice to the people of Rwanda.
The three-judge criminal court convicted former mayor, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, on one count of genocide and two counts of crimes against humanity.
Throughout the 101 days of the trial, witnesses testified that Gacumbitsi provided weapons to Hutu militias, encouraging them to kill minority Tutsis in Rwanda's southeastern community of Rusumo, where he was mayor. Witnesses also told the court he ordered militiamen to rape and sexually degrade women.
Spokesman for the tribunal, Roland Amoussouga, says the conviction proves the tribunal is fulfilling its duty to the victims of the 1994 genocide.
"This shows that the tribunal has reached its cruising altitude in terms of the delivering of justice. This is the 22nd accused person who has received his verdict. And this case was also one of the fastest cases that we have ever managed," he said.
More than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a 100-days killing rampage across Rwanda in 1994. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is based in Arusha, Tanzania, was formed later that year to hear cases against the suspected leaders of the genocide.
Mr. Amoussouga says the conviction today marks a significant legal milestone, because the tribunal ruled on an expanded definition of rape as a crime against humanity, which is expected to secure more convictions in future trials. "[It] held that any penetration of a sexual organ of the victims by an aggressor whether using sexual organs or objects constitutes rape. This is a new extension of the definition of rape," he said.
The tribunal has indicted 81 people for crimes related to the genocide. Gacumbitsi says he will appeal his verdict.