(RNS) A French court has found two former Rwandan politicians guilty of crimes against humanity for masterminding the slaughter of 2,000 people taking refuge in a Catholic church during the country’s genocide.
Octavien Ngenzi and Tito Barahira, both former mayors of Kabarondo village, were sentenced to life in jail on Wednesday (July 6).
The Paris court said they were guilty of “massive and systematic summary executions” and genocide, the news agency AFP reported.
Around 2,000 people were killed after they sought shelter in the village church at the start of a three-month genocide in 1994.
One of the trial witnesses survived the church attack, in which her seven children and husband were killed.
“Someone said ‘don’t waste the bullets’ and they continued with machetes,” Marie Mukamunana told the court, quoted by AFP. She testified to seeing Barahira among the armed attackers and said Ngenzi was “supervising the massacre.”
The slaughter of ethnic Tutsis in the church was carried out by a Hutu militia. Between early April and July an estimated 800,000 people were killed in Rwanda, the majority of them Tutsis. Some estimate as many as 1 million people died.
Barahira and Ngenzi denied their involvement in the genocide; both were convicted in absentia by a Rwandan court in 2009. Ngenzi was arrested a year later in Mayotte, a French territory, while Barahira was caught in France in 2013.
(Rosie Scammell writes for RNS from Rome)