By Daniel Sabiiti
The four-year court battle over the fate of genocide suspect Bernard Munyagishari has finally come to an end.
The High Court today sentenced Munyagishari to life in prison, finding him guilty of genocide crimes for killing Tutsi civilians in Gisenyi town, now Rubavu district, during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The ruling comes during the 23rd annual genocide commemoration, during which Rwandans remember the more than one million lives lost in 1994, including Munyagishari’s victims.
Based on testimonies from witnesses, including Munyagishari’s former personal bodyguard. The presiding judge said, there was enough evidence to implicate the suspect in killings that claimed a number of lives in former ‘commune rouge’ – an area where mass killings took place in Gisenyi town.
Munyagishari was exonerated from charges of chairing genocide planning meetings and committing rape in Gisenyi town, where he was a leader of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development. The court declared that there was insufficient evidence of these crimes.
Munyagishari’s defense lawyer, Bikotwa Bruce, said he will defend his client’s innocence in an appeal court- an appeal process which takes between 15 and 30 days after a court decision is taken.
Munyagishari was arrested in May 2011 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo following an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and later held at the criminal tribunal’s Arusha-based cells. He was transferred to Rwanda in 2016.
In Rwanda, Munyagishari has been on trial since 2013 for allegedly planning and committing genocide crimes. Charges included conspiracy to commit genocide, rape and crimes against humanity.
When he was first tried before the international tribunal before his transfer to Rwanda, the suspect pleaded not guilty.