Mother and son are jailed for Rwandan genocide atrocities
A MOTHER and her son were yesterday both jailed for life over their role in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, marking the first time a woman has been found guilty of international law's most serious charge.
Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the country's former minister for family and women's affairs, was convicted of seven counts including genocide and incitement to rape..
Her son, Arsene Ntahobali, 41, was also found guilty of a series of charges.
During the trial, which lasted ten years, prosecutors argued that Nyiramasuhuko, 65, had ordered her son and other accomplices to carry out rapes against women and girls from Rwanda's minority Tutsi tribe.
As a senior member of the government of Hutu tribe extremists who masterminded the genocide, Nyiramasuhuko sat in on cabinet meetings where plans were drawn up for the massacres.
She was put in charge of the southern region of Butare where she was born and grew up, and arranged soldiers and militia fighters to seek out Tutsis to kill.
The massacres in Butare started several weeks later than elsewhere in Rwanda, because the area had a large Tutsi population, a Tutsi mayor and a long history of ethnic harmony.
Tutsis fled there from the rest of the country once the genocide had started, thinking they would be safer.
However, once Nyiramasuhuko took charge, she personally ordered Tutsis who had fled to local government offices for safety to be loaded on to pick-up trucks and driven to the town's outskirts to be killed.
Later, she ordered men from the Interahamwe militia, thugs from the Hutu tribe who carried out the killings, to rape Tutsi women and girls.
Her son, who was a university student at the time, took part in those rapes and also ran a road-block outside a hotel in Butare town which was described as "one of the most terrifying" in the region.
Nyiramasuhuko's defence lawyer, Nicole Bergevin, said in her closing arguments before yesterday's judgment that the prosecution had failed to prove her client's guilt.
However, the panel of three judges sitting on the UN-sponsored International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - from Tanzania, Madagascar and Uganda - found Nyiramasuhuko guilty of seven of the 11 charges she faced. Her son was convicted of six of the ten charges he faced.
Describing witness testimony given to the court from people who escaped the killings, the judges said: "The evidence presented by these survivors … is among the worst encountered by this chamber. It paints a clear picture of unfathomable depravity and sadism."
"We are very happy to hear that she was been convicted and jailed, she deserved it," said Janvier Folongo, executive secretary of Ibuka, an organisation of genocide survivors in Rwanda. "But at the same time, we cannot celebrate because there are many people accused of these crimes who have not been arrested. We have a long way to go still."
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