skip navigation

The Prosecutor v. Vincent Rutaganira

Court International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Trial Chamber III), Tanzania
Case number ICTR-95-1C-T
Decision title Judgement and Sentence
Decision date 14 March 2005
  • The Prosecutor
  • Vincent Rutaganira
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide, War crimes
back to top


From 1985 to 1994, Vincent Rutaganira was conseiller communal (councilor)of Mubuga sector in Kibuye prefecture. On 6 May 1996, the Prosecutor of ICTR charged him with seven counts including genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder, extermination and other inhumane acts as crimes against humanity, as well as war crimes.

On 7 December 2004, the Prosecutor and the Accused reached an agreement, pursuant to which the latter pleaded guilty to count 16 of the indictment charging him with extermination by omission as a crime against humanity for the massacres against Tutsi civilians at Mubuga church between 14 and 17 April 1994. The Trial Chamber acquitted the Accused on the other charged for lack of evidence.

The Chamber sentenced Rutaganira to 6 years of imprisonment. It took into consideration several mitigating factors including his voluntary surrender to the Tribunal in March 2002, his guilty plea, his good behaviour while in detention, his advanced age of 60 and his ill health. The Chamber further took into account the Accused’s expression of remorse, the assistance he had provided to some victims in Mubuga sector, as well as the lack of previous criminal record.  

back to top

Procedural history

On 22 November 1995, the Prosecutor filed an initial indictment which was confirmed on 28 November 1995. On 6 May 1996, the Trial Chamber granted the Prosecutor’s request to amend its indictment.

The Prosecutor charged the Accused with seven counts: conspiracy to commit genocide (count 1), genocide (count 14), murder (count 15) and extermination (count 16) and other inhumane acts (count 17) as crimes against humanity, serious violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions (count 18) and serious violations of Additional Protocol II thereto (count 19).

At a status conference on 8 December 2004, the Prosecution and the Accused informed the Chamber that a plea agreement had been reached. At a new appearance hearing held on 8 December 2004, the Accused pleaded guilty to the charge of complicity by omission in the crime of extermination (count 16) and not guilty to the remaining counts. The Prosecutor requested the Chamber to admit the guilty plea, to find the Accused guilty under count 16, to dismiss counts 1, 14, 15, 17, 18 and 19 for lack of evidence and to acquit him on these counts.

The Chamber found the guilty plea of the Accused sincere and valid and took note of the Prosecutor’s request.

The Chamber also ordered that Rutaganira's trial be severed from that of the other accused persons included in the Indictment of 6 May 1996. 

back to top

Related developments

Rutaganira was released on 2 March 2008 after completing his sentence.

back to top

Legally relevant facts

From 1985 to 1994, the Accused was conseiller communal (councilor)of Mubuga sector in Kibuye prefecture and as such he served as a link between the inhabitants and the local political structures in this sector (para. 31).

The Accused was aware that during the clashes that had occurred earlier in Kibuye prefecture, Tutsi civilians had taken refuge in churches and that between 8 and 15 April 1994, thousands of Tutsi civilians had sought shelter in Mubuga church. He admitted that the Tutsi who had assembled at the church had been attacked between 14 and 17 April 1994, and that, as a result, thousands of them had died or had been wounded (para. 32).

Despite his position and of his knowledge of the aforementioned events, the Accused failed to act to protect the Tutsi, either before or after the massacres (para. 33).

back to top

Core legal questions

  • Whether the Accused’s decision to plead guilty was voluntary, informed and unequivocal.
  • Whether the Accused’s participation in the events at Mubuga church in April 1994 indeed amounted to extermination (crime against humanity) through complicity by omission, to which the Accused had pleaded guilty.
  • Which factors should be taken into account as aggravating and mitigating circumstances.
  • After taking into account all the aggravating and mitigating circumstances of the Accused, what the appropriate sentence would be.

back to top

Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 2, 3, 4, 6(1),(3) and 23 of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
  • Rules 62(B), 62bis, 100, 101 and 103(B) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
  • Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II thereto.

back to top

Court's holding and analysis

The Trial Chamber found that the massacres perpetrated at Mubuga church between 14 and 17 April 1994 amounted to extermination as a crime against humanity (para. 60). The Trial Chamber concluded that there was sufficient evidence to prove that the Accused was guilty of extermination as a crime against humanity in that he had aided and abetted by omission the commission of said crime (para. 100).

The Chamber further held that, based on the evidence before it, there was no basis for convicting the Accused on Counts 1, 14, 15, 17, 18 and 19 (para. 104).

After taking into account the gravity of the offence, the individual circumstances of the Accused, the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, as well as the general practice regarding prison sentences in Rwandan courts, and after granting credit for time served, the Trial Chamber sentenced him to six years of imprisonment (Disposition).

back to top

Further analysis

back to top

Instruments cited

back to top

Additional materials

back to top

Social media links