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Former Rwandan minister given life sentence for genocide crimes

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the first woman convicted of genocide by an international court, was sentenced to life in prison for her role in the 1994 Rwandan massacre.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / June 24, 2011



In the waning days of the Rwandan genocide, scores of ethnic Tutsis took refuge in a provincial government office in the Rwandan town of Butare. And then Pauline Nyiramasuhuko – a Hutu and former minister for family and women affairs – arrived and ordered them all killed.

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In a world that had other things on its mind, including a war in Yugoslavia, the crime seemed likely to go unnoticed and unpunished, especially amid the thousands of other similar actions by members of Rwanda’s then Hutu-dominated government of the day that led to the genocide of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in April, May, and June of 1994.

But today, an international criminal tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania, held Mrs. Nyiramasuhuko accountable for her actions, sentencing her to life imprisonment. Her son Arsene Ntahobali, a former militia leader, and other officials involved in the Butare massacre received the same sentence.

"The chamber convicts Pauline Nyiramasuhuko of conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, extermination, rape, persecution and ... violence to life and outrages upon personal dignity," read a ruling by the three judges at the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, according to Reuters.

The convictions against Nyiramasuhuko come 10 years after the Rwanda tribunal opened in Arusha, Tanzania. Reading out the judgment, presiding Judge William Sekule described the horror of the crimes that were committed.

"Many were physically assaulted, raped, and taken away to various places in Butare, where they were killed,” Judge Sekule was quoted by Associated Press as saying. “During the course of these repeated attacks on vulnerable civilians, both Nyiramasuhuko and Ntahobali ordered killings. They also ordered rapes. Ntahobali further committed rapes and Nyiramasuhuko aided and abetted rapes."

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