Swiss court upholds sentence of Rwandan genocide mayor

Niyonteze's defence team, Assaël (left) and Spira, expressed disappointment at the verdict Keystone

Switzerland's highest military court of appeal has upheld a 14-year sentence for a former Rwandan mayor, Fulgence Niyonteze, who was sent to prison in Geneva for his part in the 1994 genocide, in which over one million people died.

This content was published on April 27, 2001 minutes

The military tribunal in Yverdon confirmed the prison sentence which was handed down last May by the military court in Geneva.

The case of Niyonteze is a precedent in Swiss legal history, marking the first time a suspected Rwandan war criminal was tried by a foreign court, rather than by the International War Crimes Tribunal in Tanzania.

Niyonteze was first brought to trial in Switzerland in April 1999, when he was sentenced to life imprisonment on charges of murder, incitement to murder, and war crimes.

But that sentence was reduced on appeal, when the judges ruled they were only competent to consider the charges of violating humanitarian law under the Geneva Conventions.

Niyonteze's defence lawyers continued to maintain the innocence of their client, and brought the current appeal before Switzerland's highest military court, the military tribunal of cassation.

The lawyers claimed Niyonteze was convicted almost entirely on the strength of often contradictory eyewitness testimony, and asked the court to acquit him

But the tribunal confirmed the findings of the earlier trial, during which the judges said they believed the main accusations against Niyonteze were true.

Niyonteze is said to have called a meeting in Rwanda at which he urged his fellow Hutus to kill Tutsis. Witnesses at the earlier trial also testified that Niyonteze visited refugee camps and urged Tutsis to leave in the full knowledge that they would be killed.

The latest trial was conducted in camera, and no witnesses were called. The sentence handed down to Niyonteze is final, with no recourse to appeal.

swissinfo with agencies

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