Rwandan jailed for lethal trap

Kalimanzira’s ‘safe haven’ turned out to be a killing ground

Rwandan jailed for lethal trapIt has been 15 years since the grisly mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsis shocked the world, but the UN is still trying to hold the killers accountable. Late last month, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentenced Callixte Kalimanzira, 56, to 30 years in jail for genocide and incitement to commit genocide.

Kalimanzira was Rwanda’s acting interior minister during much of the 100-day atrocity, during which hardline government Hutus killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. According to the judgment summary, in April 1994 he “personally encouraged” Tutsi civilians to take refuge at Kabuye hill (near Rwanda’s second city of Butare), “promising them protection.” Then, on April 23, he arrived at the hill with Hutu soldiers and policemen. “The Tutsi refugees had successfully repelled attacks with sticks and stones until that day, but they could not resist bullets,” the summary reads. Thousands were murdered.

Though Kalimanzira didn’t personally kill any Tutsis, the three international judges said his powerful position gave weight to his exhortations to eliminate the “enemy.” In addition to aiding and abetting the genocide at Kabuye hill, he was also found guilty “of direct and public incitement to commit genocide” at two roadblocks set up to capture fleeing Tutsis.

Kalimanzira fled Rwanda after an armed Tutsi militia overthrew the government, but after living in Kenya for a few years, he voluntarily surrendered to the war crimes tribunal in November 2005.

Including Kalimanzira, 38 war criminals have now been convicted at the court in Tanzania for the massacres; many have been given life sentences. (There have also been convictions in other countries, such as Désiré Munyaneza’s conviction in Montreal in May.) Twenty-four Rwandans remain on trial, including military leaders, politicians and a Catholic priest. The UN-established court is supposed to wrap up by the end of 2009, but it has recently asked for more time.