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First Rwandan massacre trial in Germany results in 14-year prison term

Feb. 18, 2014 at 10:54 AM   |   Comments

FRANKFURT, Germany, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- A court in Frankfurt, Germany, sentenced a former Rwandan mayor to 14 years in prison Tuesday for his role during the 1994 genocide, a first for a German court.

Former Kiziguro Mayor Onesphore Rwabukombe was sentenced Tuesday for organizing, ordering and monitoring a church massacre in which as many as 1,200 people died, Deutsche Welle reported.

Under the principle of universal jurisdiction, Deutsche Welle said, any court can convict someone on genocide charges, not just courts in the country in which the crime was committed. Rwabukombe lived in Germany since 2002 and has been in custody since 2010.

In 1994, Rwandan Hutus slaughtered three quarters of all Tutsis and many moderate Hutus within 100 days.

Prosecutors had urged the court to sentence Rwabukombe to life in prison, Deutsche Welle said.

"He took part and drove people with his official car to the church grounds," said Dieter Magsam, a lawyer representing the victims.

Natalie von Wistinghausen, one of Rwabukombe's lawyers, had urged for her client's acquittal saying the defense believed the testimony given was meant to "cast guilt on the accused, because as mayor he was the only official in authority around at the time."

The defense also questioned whether Germany was the proper venue to try a case on atrocities committed in Rwanda, Deutsche Welle said.

"Our system is simply not suited to clearing up what really happened, even though everybody put in a lot of effort," Wistinghausen said.

Two other cases in the Rwanda genocide are being heard in Germany.

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