Pastor & Son Guilty in Rwandan Genocide

From the International Desk Published 2/19/2003

ARUSHA, Tanzania, Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A doctor was found guilty Wednesday of genocide and his father, a church pastor, was deemed responsible for aiding and abetting in genocide by a U.N. tribunal on Rwanda.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda returned unanimous verdicts against Dr. Gerard Ntakirutimana, 45, and Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, 78. The younger man was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity before being sentenced to 25 years in prison. The elder Ntakirutimana, found guilty of lesser crimes, was given a 10-year prison sentence. The verdicts are subject to appeals. Both men had pleaded innocent to the charges, which stem from the 1994 killings of hundreds of Tutsis by Hutu militia.

Gerard Ntakirutimana, who practiced medicine at the Mugonero Adventist hospital, was found guilty of killing two people and shooting at Tutsi refugees at several locations. He was found to be part of attacks on Tutsis at Murambi Hill and Muyira Hill on various dates, the ICTR said in a news release.

The tribunal found that Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, the pastor at the Seventh Day Adventist church in Mugonero, in western Rwanda, took attackers to Murambi Church in Bisesero and ordered the removal of the building's roof, so that it could not be used as a shelter for Tutsis. The act led to the deaths of many of those inside. He also took attackers to various locations to chase down and kill Tutsis, leading the ICTR to determine he was a participant in massacres in the area.

According to the British Broadcasting Corp., hundreds of Tutsis who had taken refuge in a church and hospital sent a letter to Elizaphan Ntakirutimana asking for help. The letter, the BBC reported, included the sentence, "We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families." Elizaphan Ntakirutimana's alleged response was that they should prepare for death. Hutu militias, allegedly with both Ntakirutimanas, arrived a short time later. Only a few Tutsis survived the ensuing assault. The Ntakirutimanas said they had left the area before the killings began.

Elizaphan Ntakirutimana fled to the United States after the killings, but he was extradited to Tanzania. His defense was led by former U.S. Attorney General Ramsay Clark.

The ICTR has returned nine judgments, with 10 defendants being convicted and one acquitted. Eight cases, involving some 20 suspects, are pending. Six cases are expected to be decided sometime this year, the ICTR said.

At least half a million people, a vast majority of them from the minority Tutsi community, were killed in violence by members of the country's ruling Hutu majority.