- A former top Rwandan official today pleaded guilty to war crimes at the UN war crimes tribunal set up in the wake of the mass killings that engulfed the small African nation in 1994.
Michael Bagaragaza, who headed the office controlling the Rwandan tea industry during the genocide, entered a guilty plea to complicity in genocide.
He was initially charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with ordering his subordinates and instigating others to kill hundreds of Tutsi civilians near a tea factory.
Mr Bagaragaza helped establish, fund, train and arm the Hutu-dominated rebel Interahamwe militia to carry out attacks on Tutsi civilians and to have been the honorary president of a local Interahamwe unit. He also ordered tea factory employees to provide the Interahamwe with vehicle fuel, arms and ammunition from a stockpile at the factory and ordered them to help kill hundreds of Tutsis, the Tribunal said.
During a period of less than 100 days starting in early April 1994, an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed, mainly by machete.
Today’s plea comes on the heels of two attempts by prosecutors to transfer Mr Bagaragaza’s case to Norway and the Netherlands, but in both instances it was ruled that neither country has jurisdiction to try the case.
In July, Tharcisse Renzaho, a former governor of the Rwandan capital, Kigali, was sentenced to life in prison after the ICTR convicted him of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Tribunal said he ordered the establishment of roadblocks and then supported the killings of Tutsis at those roadblocks. He was also said to have supervised a selection process at a refugee site where about 40 Tutsis were abducted and killed.
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