The Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha, Tanzania has reduced the sentence of Theoneste Bagosora from life to 35 years. Colonel Bagosora, often identified as the “king pin” of the Rwandan Genocide, was the director of cabinet in 1994 when the genocide against Tutsi occurred. Moreover, it is believed that he wielded the most clout on the Rwandan army during the genocide.
In his defense, Col. Bagosora claimed he was a victim of state propaganda by the current Tutsi dominated government. However, the court maintained that he had failed to use his influence to stop the 1994 slaughter. Bagosora who is aged 70 years will be 89 when his prison term ends.
At the same time, the co-accused, Anatole Nsengiyumva, got his sentence cut down to 15 years, which is the equivalence of the time he has spent in jail.
The reduction of Bagosora's sentence has been met with mixed reactions. Most Rwandans view the sentence as too lenient. President Paul Kagame added his input during the opening of the 9th National Dialogue. He stated:
It has taken them 17 years to try Bagosora a genocidaire and they tried him badly.
Adding that since the international community had failed to deliver justice, it lacked the legitimacy to question his human rights record:
Those who have failed to try genocidaires for 17 years are jokers and liars. Those who come to teach us freedoms are [the] same people letting the likes of murderers like Bagosora free.
The Newtimes, a leading newspaper in Rwanda, observed that the news was “greeted by surprise and shock” by many people including genocide survivors. Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the head of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, was quoted as saying:
I was shocked by the decision; it’s nothing but an insult to Genocide survivors; however, I need to read the ruling thoroughly to know the exact basis of the judgment.
Willis Shalita, a Rwandan American blogger, was similarly offended by the sentence which he described as “a mockery of justice”. He argued:
Theoneste Bagosora, Rwanda’s Himmler was arrested 15 years ago in Cameroon and later sentenced to life imprisonment for being the chief architect of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. Justice seemed to have been done then.
But now, this devil incarnate has had his sentence reduced to 35 years. With time served, Bagosora will be 89, God forbid, when he walks as a free man. Or will he?
Adding that if Bagosora is ever released it would send the “wrong message”:
The lessons about the genocide against the Tutsi keep unravelling. But this much we know : a crime against humanity was committed while the world looked on. That Bagosora can ever test freedom again sends the wrong message to those monsters who see genocide as the only means of settling political disagreements.
A commentator identiffying as Mugasa wondered:
Ariko ibi si ukutwendereza ra ?Isn't this a provocation?
Drake was equally surprised and angry:
Ndumiwe kabisa uburyo umuntu nka Bagosora wakoze amarorerwa nkariya wakabaye akatirwa burundu,umuntu wamennye ndetse akanamenesha amaraso inzirakarengane ngo yahawe mirongo itatu nitanu birenze ukwemera !I am astonished that Bagosora who committed such unspeakable acts and spilled the blood of many innocent people, gets 35 years instead of a life sentence. It is beyond belief!
The uproar was also felt on Twitter.
@_rachelrichard: You can be a key organiser of a crime against humanity, GENOCIDE and only receive 35 years sentence. This is NOT justice. #Rwanda #Bagosora
Before the appeal, Col. Bagosora had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 for his involvement in the genocide. Moreover, he was also found responsible for the killing of ten Belgian peacekeepers by the Rwandan army at the time.