The Brussels Court of Assizes has sentenced Rwanda’s Seraphin Twahirwa to life imprisonment over Genocide crimes committed during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.
His co-accused Pierre Basabose was sentenced to an involuntarily internment. The latter is s a legal security measure ordered by the criminal court for persons with mental illness who have committed a crime but who are deemed by the criminal court judges to have not been in control of their actions, and who also pose a danger to society.
The long awaited verdict comes two days after the jurors from the court found both men guilty of genocide and war crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994, especially in their Karambo and Gikondo neighborhood-Kigali.
Twahirwa who had for alias ‘Kihebe’ a term used in Rwanda to describe someone with any limits of decency, was also found guilty of rape as a crime against humanity.
Twelve cases were heard by court saying that the man who is alleged to be a relative of late President Juvenal Habyarimana raped them and tortured them. Some witnesses were heard testifying over this.
Basabose and Twahirwa aged 76 and 65 respectively, were accused of genocide and war crimes. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office had put the death of at least 56 Tutsi over their heads, on top of at least 13 attempted murders.
During the Genocide, Twahirwa was mainly found guilty of leading Interahamwe militiamen which conducted carnage of the Tutsi while Basabose was found guilty of supplying and sponsoring the militia.
Although Twahirwa denied having participated in the Genocide, the jury found that his account did not stand up to the testimony of members of Interahamwe miltia, genocide survivors, the Gikondo residents and his own wife.
Twahirwa had such a determination to leave no Tutsi to tell the story, that he even killed his brother-in-law.
“He did not hesitate to kill his brother-in-law as well as children and babies by throwing them against a wall,” according to the jury.
On rape, the jury said that Twahirwa went as far as humiliating the Tutsi victims by shooting them between the legs.
Meanwhile, the jury found that the co-accused Basabose financed a media outlet, Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), that fuelled hatred of the Tutsis.”
According to the list of the radio shareholders, Basabose was number two with biggest shareholding with Rwf 600,000 coming only after former President Juvenal Habyarimana.
The jury also felt that Basabosé had financed the Interahamwe in Gikondo sector, notably in “their missions of espionage and assassination of Tutsis.”
His finance included, but was not limited to giving his vehicles for the transport of the Interahamwe militiamen during their killings spree.
The jury declared that Basabose was now in a state of health that “impaired his capacity for discernment.” Several psychiatric experts had diagnosed him with a “mental disorder of the dementing type,” the jury noted, “which prevents him from enjoying all his mental faculties, even if he has a few moments of greater lucidity.”
During the trial, Basabose’s lawyer Jean Flamme pleaded for the acquittal of his client, claiming that the testimonies of the prosecution were not substantives.
During the trial, Twahirwa’s relatives were brought in good number, including his wife, his daughter, his son, his brothers and his sisters from his home village. His neighbors back in Gisenyi were also brought to Belgium to testify.
His wife who had earlier accused him of having taken her into forced marriage completely changed her language and said she had a happy marriage where husband used to call her sweetheart.
She joined the defence to allege that the witnesses are manipulated by Rwanda, that she was terrorized to place false accusations against her husband.
The prosecution found this a tactic for Twahirwa’s family to attract Belgium government’s attention so that they are accepted as refugees in the country, something which they allegedly have been trying to get for several years now.