Retributive Justice

18 May 2011

The sentencing yesterday of Augustin Bizimungu to 30 years in jail for his role in the genocide is welcome. His trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has lasted nine years, at considerable cost. Though he did not receive the maximum sentence life imprisonment, at least he will serve time behind bars.

Bizimungu played a direct role in the killing of thousands of Tutsis during his brief but pivotal time as Chief of Staff of the Army from April to July 1994. He was found guilty of charges including six counts of genocide, crimes against humanity for  murder,  extermination and rape.

Others convicted in Military Trial II at the ICTR in Arusha included the former chief of the gendarmerie (police), Gen. Augustin Ndindiliyimana, former commander of the reconnaissance battalion, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who commanded one of the squadrons of the unit.

Nzuwonemeye and Sagahutu each received a sentence of 20 years imprisonment while Ndindiliyimana was sentenced to time served since 2000, and released.

Since 1994, the ICTR has completed only 59 trials, at a cost of nearly $2 billion. Rwanda’s Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama has stated on record that he regrets that the tribunal’s mandate did not include compensation for the victims. Survivors Fund (SURF) shares that disappointment, and will continue to campaign for more than just retributive justice for survivors in Rwanda, but for the restorative justice still to be delivered.