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The Prosecutor v. Jean-Baptise Gatete

Court International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, Tanzania
Case number ICTR-2000-61-T
Decision title Judgment and Sentence
Decision date 31 March 2011
  • The Prosecutor
  • Jean-Baptise Gatete
Categories Crimes against humanity, Genocide
Keywords extermination, genocide, Murder, rape
Other countries involved
  • Rwanda
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Following the death of Rwandan President Habyariamana in April 1994, a series of large scale attacks were launched against the Tutsi population in Rwanda by members of the governing party, the Rwandan Armed Forces, the Interahamwe and civilian militias. In particular, two attacks were launched against Tutsi men, women and children seeking refuge at the Kiziguro and Mukarange parishes. The assailants proceeded to kill thousands of Tutsis and buried their bodies in mass graves.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the present case found that the Accused, Jean-Baptise Gatete, a former mayor, issued instructions to the assailants of these two attacks directing them to kill Tutsis. He additionally provided material support by distributing weapons amongst the assailants. The Tribunal convicted the Accused of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

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Procedural history

On 14 December 2000, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted the Accused, Jean-Baptise Gatete, for 10 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. On 19 December 2000, Judge Pillay confirmed all counts in the Indictment and issued an arrest warrant for the Accused.

On 11 September 2002, the Accused was arrested in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and transferred to the custody of the Tribunal.

On 20 September 2002, the Accused pleaded not guilty to all counts in the Indictment.

At the request of the Prosecutor, the Indictment was amended on 10 May 2005 and the counts against the Accused reduced to six: genocide or complicity in the alternative, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity. The trial commenced on 20 October 2009 and concluded on 8 November 2010.

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Related developments

Both the Prosecution and the Defence have appealed the decision of the Trial Chamber. A decision is forthcoming.

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Legally relevant facts

The Accused is the former mayor of the Murambi commune (1982-June 1993) and the former Director in the Ministry of Women and Family Affaits at the time of the Rwandan genocide in April 1994. He was also a member of the National Congress of the leading MRND political party (para. 82).

In the days following 6 April 1994 and the death of the then Rwandan President Habyariamana, hundreds of Tutis refugees fled attacks in their localites and sought refuge within the Kiziguro parish in Murambi commune. On 11 April, the parish compound was attacked by members of the Rwandan armed forces, Interahamwe militia members and civilian militia. Tutsi men, women and children were killed and their bodies thrown in mass graves (paras. 291-293). The Accused was present at the parish at the time of the attack and the attack occurred on his instruction (para. 342).

Similarly, over a thousand Tutsi sought refuge at the Mukarange parish, which was attacked on 12 April by at least a thousand assailtant using greandes and other weapons. Thousands were killed (par. 385). The Accused was present at the parish at the time of the attack, distributed weapons to the assailants and directed them to attack the refugees (para. 417).

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Core legal questions

  • What are the elements of the crime of conspiracy to commit genocide?
  • What is the distinction between murder and extermination as crimes against humanity?
  • Is pre-meditation an element of murder as a crime against humanity?

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Specific legal rules and provisions

  • Articles 2(2),(3), 3(a),(b) and 6(1) of the Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

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Court's holding and analysis

Conspiracy to commit genocide is an agreement between two or more persons to commit the crime of genocide. Each person in the agreement must possess the necessary mens rea for genocide, that is, an intention to destroy in whole or in part a national, ethnic, racial or religious group (para. 611). The existence of an agreement may be inferred from the concerted or coordinated action of a group of individuals; similarity of conduct is insufficient (para. 612).

Extermination is distinguishable from murder as a crime against humanity because the former is an act of killing on a large-scale. There is, however, no numerical minimum that must be reached (para. 636).

Whilst some Trial Chambers have held that murder requires, in addition to intent, an element of pre-meditation, the Trial Chamber in the present instance did not decide the matter but rather held that the killings at issue in this case constitute murder under either standard (para. 648).

The Accused was convicted of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity (para. 668). He was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment (para. 683).

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Further analysis

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Instruments cited

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Additional materials