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Ex-Mayor From Rwanda Is Found Guilty For His Role in a Slaughter

By Ann M. Simmons
los angeles times
arusha, tanzania

In the first guilty verdict for genocide handed down by an international court, a former mayor from Rwanda was found guilty Wednesday for his role in the 1994 slaughter of more than 800,000 people in his African nation.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the U.N. court based in this northern Tanzanian town, also set a precedent by recognizing rape and other forms of sexual violence as acts of genocide when targeted at a specific population with the intent of causing physical and mental harm.

Jean-Paul Akayesu, an ethnic Hutu and mayor of the village of Taba in central Rwanda during the massacre of ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates, was convicted on nine counts of genocide, incitement to genocide, crimes against humanity, rape and sexual violence.

He was acquitted on six counts, including a charge of complicity in genocide. The judges ruled that someone found guilty of genocide could not also be convicted of complicity and that prosecutors had failed to prove their case on the other counts.

Lead prosecutor Pierre Prosper said he was satisfied with the judgment because the judges in the nonjury trial recognized that Akayesu's case was one "of betrayal and abuse of power" in which the ex-mayor "failed in his obligation to protect his people."

The judgment also "recognizes crimes of sexual violence for what they are," said Prosper, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Los Angeles. "They are horrific crimes, where the suffering continues long after the actual offense."

The judgment comes two days before the scheduled sentencing of former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda, who in May pleaded guilty to genocide and confessed that the systematic slaughter of Tutsis was sponsored by his government.

But although the Akayesu judgment hands the U.N. tribunal a victory in its attempts to prosecute genocide, some Rwandans said they felt the verdict will do little to bring relief to a population still suffering the physical and emotional scars of the massacre.

Others said the judgment would mean little, unless those who were hurt are somehow compensated.