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Ex-Rwanda minister jailed for life on genocide and rape counts

By the CNN Wire Staff
(file photo) A picture taken on May 28, 1994 shows displaced Tutsis at a refugee camp in Kabgayi, Rwanda.
(file photo) A picture taken on May 28, 1994 shows displaced Tutsis at a refugee camp in Kabgayi, Rwanda.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nyiramasuhuko is the only woman to be convicted by the U.N.-backed court for Rwanda
  • She was minister for family and women's affairs at the time of the mass killings
  • Five other officials, including her son, are guilty of genocide and other charges
  • Some 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, died in the violence

(CNN) -- A former Rwandan minister has been jailed for life for genocide and incitement to rape at the United Nations-backed court for Rwanda in Tanzania.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who is the only woman to be convicted by the court, was minister for family and women's affairs in the Rwandan government when some 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were killed in 1994.

She was accused of direct and public incitement to commit genocide and of being responsible for rape "as part of a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population on political, ethnic and racial grounds," the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said.

Her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, a militia leader who was jointly charged in the case, was also convicted Friday of genocide, crimes against humanity including rape and persecution and war crimes, and sentenced to life in prison.

Four local officials who were accused alongside Nyiramasuhuko and her son were all found guilty of genocide and other charges. They were handed prison terms ranging from 25 years to life.

Nyiramasuhuko, who was arrested in 1997 in Kenya, and taken to the U.N. court in Tanzania to await trial, was found guilty of seven of the counts she faced, ICTR spokesman Roland Amoussouga told CNN.

They included charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape and persecution.

Two charges were dismissed, one of complicity to commit genocide and a second relating to murder and crimes against humanity. She was also cleared of two charges, one alleging direct and public incitement to commit genocide and another of inhumane acts and crimes against humanity.

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The court found that Nyiramasuhuko was a member of the Interim Government that issued directives whose intention "was to encourage the population to hunt down and take action against the 'enemy' and its 'accomplices'; terms which referred to Tutsis in general."

Nyiramasuhuko also participated in many Cabinet meetings at which the massacre of Tutsis was discussed, "and she took part in the decisions that triggered the onslaught of massacres in Butare prefecture."

Between April and mid-June 1994, hundreds of Tutsis were rounded up by militia members in her home district of Butare and many subjected to assaults and rape, the court said. During this time, Nyiramasuhuko ordered killings and "aided and abetted rapes" of vulnerable civilians, some of which were committed by her son, the court said.

The six sentenced Friday will remain in detention in Tanzania pending an appeals process. If their convictions are upheld, the head of the tribunal will then decide what state to transfer them to to serve their sentences, said Amoussouga, the ICTR spokesman.

The ICTR said it had been a complex and lengthy case, involving 189 witnesses and almost 13,000 pages of documents.

While Nyiramasuhuko is the only woman to have been convicted by the ICTR, other women have been jailed for their roles in the genocide by courts elsewhere.

A Roman Catholic nun was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a traditional Rwandan court in 2006 for her part in the killings. Two other Catholic nuns were found guilty of genocide charges by a court in Belgium in 2001.

The Rwandan genocide was triggered by the April 6, 1994, shooting down of a plane carrying the nation's Hutu president.

Ethnic violence erupted and Tutsis were killed systematically by Hutus.

The United Nations estimates that some 200,000 people participated in the perpetration of the Rwandan genocide.

In all, 800,000 men, women, and children -- mostly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus -- died.

CNN's Umaro Djau contributed to this report.

 
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