UN genocide court rejects Rwandan musician’s appeal

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A U.N. court trying the masterminds of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide has upheld a 2008 conviction of a musician sentenced to 15 years for using a public address system to incite the killing of ethnic Tutsis.

The appeals chamber of the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) rejected an appeal and reaffirmed the guilty verdict against Simon Bikindi, 56, for direct and public incitement to commit genocide. “He is to remain in the U.N. detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania, pending his transfer to the country in which he will serve his sentence,” the tribunal said in a statement.

Prosecutors said that towards the end of June 1994 in Gisenyi prefecture, Bikindi broadcast messages from a speaker on his car asking the majority Hutu to rise up and kill Tutsis. On a second drive along the same road, he asked if people had been killing the “snakes”. During Rwanda’s 100 days of slaughter, 800 000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Bikindi, who was a composer as well as singer of both traditional and modern Rwandan music, performed with the Irindiro Ballet band. He also had a post in the sports ministry. ICTR’s prosecution had accused him of composing music aimed at encouraging genocide. But the judgment found no proof of that, nor of encouraging radio stations to play his songs.

In a separate ruling by the same court on Thursday, the jail sentence of a former Rwandan prosecutor, Simeon Nchamihigo, was reduced to 40 years instead of life in prison. The former Rwandan deputy prosecutor was sentenced in September 2008 to life for genocide, extermination, and violation of the Geneva Convention, which carry the obligation to protect civilians during conflict.

According to the indictment, Nchamihigo allegedly ordered the killings of Tutsis in his community, including a clergyman, student, and a local businessman. He was also found guilty of compiling lists of local influential Tutsis to be killed. The court reversed his convictions for genocide and murder as a crime against humanity for aiding and abetting the killing of three women. It also reversed his conviction for genocide by instigating the killings of refugees.

However, the court affirmed Nchamihigo’s convictions for genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity for instigating the killings of some other people and a massacre.