Rwanda: Ex-women's minister guilty of genocide, rape

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko Pauline Nyiramasuhuko forced people to undress before they were loaded onto trucks

A former Rwandan women's minister has been sentenced to life in prison for her role in the genocide and the rape of Tutsi women and girls.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, 65, is the first woman to be convicted of genocide by an international court.

She was found guilty, along with her son and four other former officials, after a 10-year trial.

Some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during the 1994 massacres.

Nyiramasuhuko, who was family affairs and women's development minister, was accused of ordering and assisting in the massacres in her home district of Butare in southern Rwanda.

The prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) accused her of taking part in the government decision to create militias throughout the country. Their mission was to wipe out the Tutsi population as fast as possible.

'Depravity and sadism'

"The chamber convicts Pauline Nyiramasuhuko of conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, extermination, rape, persecution and... violence to life and outrages upon personal dignity," read the ruling by the trial's three judges.

During the genocide she ordered women and girls to be raped and forced people onto trucks - they were driven away to be killed.

Her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, who was in his early 20s at the time, headed a militia that carried out the massacres. He also raped women.

Rwanda's genocide

Rwandan soldier at the genocide memorial in Bisesero, Rwanda
  • 800,000 people killed in 100 days
  • Hutu extremists massacred ethnic Tutsi minority and political opponents
  • Roadblocks set up where people were identified by their ID papers and slaughtered with machetes
  • Ended when Tutsi rebels led by Paul Kagame seized power in Kigali in June 1994
  • Many Hutus fled into DR Congo, sparking years of unrest in the region

Presiding Judge William Sekule said scores of ethnic Tutsis were killed after taking refuge in a local government office.

"Hoping to find safety and security, they instead found themselves subject to abductions, rapes, and murder. The evidence... paints a clear picture of unfathomable depravity and sadism," he said.

Ntahobali and one other local official were sentenced to life in prison, while three others were jailed for between 25 and 35 years.

BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says Nyiramasuhuko showed no emotion as she was sentenced.

She was found guilty on seven of the 11 charges she faced. She had denied all the charges.

The trial opened in 2001, making it the longest held by the ICTR.

Last month, former army chief Augustin Bizimungu and three other former military officers were convicted after a nine-year trial.

The Rwandan government, led by Paul Kagame who ended the genocide, has long complained about the slow pace of justice at the tribunal, based in Arusha, Tanzania.

Butare was once home to a large mix of Hutu and Tutsi people, and there was some resistance there to the orders to carry out the massacres.

Nyiramasuhuko was accused of requesting military assistance to proceed with the massacres in her home commune.

After the genocide, she fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire), before being arrested in Kenya in 1997, reports the AFP news agency.

Our correspondent says that although she was the only woman on trial for genocide before the ICTR, many other women have been convicted of genocide in Rwandan courts.

Two nuns were found guilty of participating in the genocide by a court in Belgium.

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