No early release for Rwanda genocide top brass Bagosora, says UN tribunal

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An international tribunal for Rwanda has turned down a request for the early release of Theoneste Bagosora, a man some consider the mastermind behind the 1994 genocide that killed some 800,000 people.

Judge Carmel Agius denied the application, saying “the extremely high gravity of Bagosora’s crimes weighs very heavily against his early release”, according to reports from AFP news agency.

Agius heads up the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT), which oversees the completion of work by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that wound up at the end of 2015.

The Maltese judge said he considered Bagosora’s failure to demonstrate rehabilitation as counting against his early release in the ruling dated 1 April.

Bagosora, a former choirboy, was sentenced to life in prison for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by the ICTR in 2008, but had his sentence reduced to 35 years on appeal three years later.

The 79-year-old was a key officer in the Rwanda army and during legal proceedings was described as one of the kingpins masterminding the genocide.

During his appeal, it was argued that Bagosora did not order the killings, but as a top military official he knew the crimes were going to happen and did not try to stop them, although he had the authority to do so.

The genocide saw the mass killings of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremist Hutu militia over a period of 100 days from 7 April to 15 July 1994.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame came to power in the aftermath of the genocide, and is largely credited as having helped stop the slaughter.

The ICTR cost more than $1.3bn and sentenced 85 suspects over the course of 20 years, according to research by René Lemarchand published by Sciences Po.

Lemarchand, known for his extensive research on Rwanda, described Bagosora as "the chief organizer of the killings".