By Mike Pflanz, Nairobi:
Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, 65, was also found guilty of inciting rape at the UN-backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is prosecuting those accused of orchestrating the killings of more than 800,000 people in Rwanda in 1994.
She stood accused alongside her son, Arsene Ntahobali, 41, who was a student at the time of the massacres. In the dock beside his mother, he was also convicted of similar charges yesterday. The pair were sentenced to life in prison.
As a senior member of the Hutu government which planned the genocide, Nyiramasuhuko took part in cabinet meetings where decisions were made on how to exterminate the Tutsi minority in Rwanda.
Rwanda’s former minister for family and women’s affairs yesterday became the first woman to be found guilty of genocide.
She was put in charge of the southern region of Butare where she was born and grew up, and arranged loyal soldiers and militia fighters to search out Tutsis to kill.
The massacres in Butare started several weeks later than elsewhere in Rwanda, because the area had a large Tutsi population, a Tutsi mayor and a long history of ethnic harmony.
Tutsis fled there from the rest of the country once the genocide had started, thinking they would be safer.
But once Nyiramasuhuko took charge, she personally ordered Tutsis who had fled to local government offices for safety to be loaded onto pickup trucks and driven to the town’s outskirts to be killed.
Later, she ordered men from the Interahamwe militia, thugs from the Hutu tribe who carried out the killings, to rape Tutsi women and girls.
Her son took part in those rapes, and also ran a roadblock outside a hotel in Butare town which was described as “one of the most terrifying” in the region.
Men, women and children were seized from there and taken to woods outside town, next to a church school, and assassinated.
“The evidence presented by these survivorsâ ¦is among the worst encountered by this Chamber,” the three-judge panel at the Tanzania-based court said in its judgment
“It paints a clear picture of unfathomable depravity and sadism.”
Nyiramasuhuko and her son were indicted with four other men who all held senior political positions in the region at the time of the killings.
All were found guilty of a variety of charges ” including genocide for all but one of them” and given sentences between 25 years and life.
“We are very happy to hear that she was been convicted and jailed, she deserved it,” said Janvier Folongo, executive secretary of Ibuka, an organisation of genocide survivors in Rwanda.
“But at the same time, we cannot celebrate because there are many people accused of these crimes who have still not been arrested. We have a long way to go still.”