Prison for Rwanda genocide architect

The brother-in-law of former Rwanda president Juvenal Habyarimana has been sentenced by the UN war crimes court to 20 years in prison.

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The UN war crimes court for Rwanda today sentenced the brother-in-law of former president Juvenal Habyarimana to 20 years in prison for genocide and extermination. Protais Zigiranyirazo was convicted of "aiding and encouraging" the killing of about 1,500 Tutsis on April 8, 1994 in northern Rwanda and 10 to 20 others near his home in the capital Kigali. Prosecutors had sought a life sentence for Zigiranyirazo, a former lawmaker and prefect of the country's northern Ruhengeri region.

Although he held no office in 1994 when the genocide occurred, the court ruled that he still wielded influence and authority. Habyarimana's killing on April 6, 1994 when his plane was shot down is widely believed to have sparked the genocide in which 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were slaughtered. Zigiranyirazo and his sister, Habyarimana's widow, were also accused of compiling a hit list of minority Tutsi and Hutu opponents they wanted to kill on the eve of the 100-day genocide.

The prosecution had said the list was drawn up "as part of a plan seeking to avenge the president's death". Zigiranyirazo was arrested in Brussels in 2001 while travelling on a false French passport. The UN Security Council set up the ICTR in November 1994 in the Tanzanian town of Arusha. It has so far convicted 31 suspects and acquitted five. *AFP