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Africa

Germany gives life sentence to Rwandan for genocide

Rwandans tell DW they welcome Tuesday's court ruling in Frankfurt, in which a Rwandan national was sent to prison for life for participating in the 1994 genocide.

A German court sentenced a former Rwandan mayor to life in prison on Tuesday (29.12.2015), convicting him of participating in genocide when he helped to organize the killing of some 400 members of the Tutsi minority in 1994.

This was Onesphore Rwabukombe's second trial in Germany. He was convicted in 2014 of being an accessory to genocide and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Both sides appealed that ruling. A federal court found that evidence heard at the original three-year trial suggested there was sufficient evidence for a tougher conviction.

The federal court then ordered the Frankfurt state court to reconsider the case and judges ruled on Tuesday after a five-day trial.

Gerd Hankel from the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, who has been following the case closely, told DW that the court ruled that Rwabukombe "had a special intent to commit genocide" whereas the previous court in 2014 had ruled he was a "mere accomplice."

Rwandan analyst and genocide researcher Tom Ndahiro told DW that the Frankfurt court on Tuesday "has sent a clear message that you can run, but there will be a limit. The long arm of the law and justice will catch you."

Sought asylum in Germany

Rwabukombe, a member of the Hutu majority who was mayor of Muvumba, was accused of ordering the attack on a church in Kiziguro, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) away, on April 11,1994. The Tutsi victims had sought refuge in the church.

Rwabukombe denies having been at the site of the killings.

However, the Frankfurt court found that he "knowingly and willingly, along with other authorities, prepared, organized, commanded and set in motion the massacre."

The defendant, it said, "sought to accelerate and conclude the events - even when he himself was in danger from the advance of opposing troops."

Ruanda Genozid Gedenken 07.04.2014

Commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide were held in 2014

More than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Rwabukombe, who sought asylum in Germany in 2002, was arrested in 2010 on an international warrant and has been in custody since then. He wasn't extradited after authorities concluded that he couldn't receive a fair trial in Rwanda.

DW asked members of the public in Rwanda for their reaction to the life sentence handed down to Rwabukombe.

One man said "I know for sure that Western countries know the reality of genocide."

One woman told DW she welcomed the sentence but had one reservation.

"Seeing that justice is served for what was done to people way back in 1994 makes me feel good. But there is something missing. I want him to be repatriated back home," she said.

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