Augustin Bizimungu

18.08.2014 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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Augustin Bizimungu was born on 28 August 1952 in Nyange in Byumba prefecture, Rwanda. He was Commander of Military Operations for the Ruhengeri prefecture. On 16 April 1994, he was appointed Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army. He held this position until July 1994. In this capacity he exercised authority over the entire Rwandan Armed Forces.(FAR).

From late 1990 until July 1994, Bizimungu is alleged to have conspired with others to work out a plan with intent to exterminate the civilian Tutsi population and eliminate members of the opposition. According to the indictment, the components of this plan consisted of, amongst other things, recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the training and distribution of weapons to militiamen as well as the preparation of lists of people to be eliminated. In executing the plan, he is said to have organised, ordered and participated in the massacres of the Tutsi population.

Several high ranking officers of the Rwandan Army, including Bizimungu, are said to have publicly stated that the inevitable consequence of any resumption of hostilities by the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front-an opposition movement composed mainly of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kagame), or of the implementation of the Arusha Accords would be the extermination of the Tutsi. Furthermore, in February 1994, Bizimungu is said to have stated that if the RPF attacked again, he did not want to see one Tutsi left alive in his sector of operations.

According to the indictment, as from 1992, the training of militia groups was supervised by the military including Bizimunga. Such training, which allegedly took place in military camps and in neighbouring forests, was conducted simultaneously in several prefectures around the country including Ruhengeri where Bizimungu is reported to have supervised the training of the militia in collaboration with local civilian authorities such as the mayors and district councillors.

Bizimungu is reported to have distributed weapons to militiamen and to certain carefully selected members of the civilian population with the aim of exterminating the Tutsi population and eliminating its “accomplices”. From early 1992, in his position as Commander of Military Operations in Ruhengeri prefecture, Bizimungu is alleged to have distributed weapons to militiamen either by giving them directly or through his subordinates, mayors and district councillors.

Between April and July 1994, several officers of the Rwandan Army, one of which was General Bizimungu, allegedly ordered, encouraged and backed the massacres of the Tutsi population and the Hutu moderates. On or about 18 May 1994, during a meeting at which Bizimungu was present, these officers were reported to be very pleased with the performance of the militiamen, whilst at the same time underlining the need to provide them with better arms.

Between 10 and 15 April 1994, several Tutsi, who had fled the massacre on the hillside sought refuge in the Ruhengeri prefecture. On orders from Bizimungu certain of these refugees were allegedly taken into the Appeals Court where their security should have been guaranteed by the gendarmerie. During the hours that followed, these refugees were killed by armed civilians. To cover up this massacre, Bizimungu allegedly issued an order that a message be aired over the radio indicating that it was an attack by the RPF which was responsible for the death of these refugees.

From April to July 1994, officers of the Army General Staff, one of which was Bizimungu, allegedly participated in daily briefings at which they were informed of the massacres of the civilian Tutsi population and the moderate Hutu.

From April to July 1994, by virtue of their position, their statements, the orders they gave and their acts, Bizimungu as well as General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, Major Protais Mpiranya, Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, exercised authority over members of the Rwandan Armed Forces, their officers and militiamen. The military, gendarmes and militiamen, as from 6 April 1994, allegedly perpetrated massacres against the Tutsi population and the moderate Hutu and committed other crimes such as rapes and sexual assaults and other crimes of a sexual nature, which extended throughout the territory of Rwanda with the knowledge of Bizimungu, Ndindiliyimana, Mpiranya, Nzuwonemeye and Sagahutu.

From April to July 1994, in all regions of the country, members of the Tutsi population who were fleeing from the massacres in their surrounding hillsides, sought refuge in locations they believed would be safe, often on the recommendation of the local civil and military authorities. In many of these places, despite the promise that they would be protected by the local civil and military authorities, the refugees were attacked, abducted and massacred by soldiers, gendarmes and militiamen often on the orders, or with the complicity, of those same authorities. Furthermore, in many of those places, soldiers and militiamen abducted, killed and raped or sexually assaulted Tutsi women. According to the indictment, Bizimungu, in his capacity as Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army and previously as Commander of the Ruhengeri sector, knew, or had reasons to know, that his subordinates were about to commit or had committed crimes and did nothing to prevent such crimes or punish the perpetrators.

Knowing that massacres of the civilian population were being committed, the political and military authorities, one of which was allegedly Bizimungu, took no initiative or any measures to stop them. On the contrary, they refused to intervene to control and appeal to the population as long as a cease fire had not been declared. This categorical refusal was communicated to the Special Rapporteur via the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army, Augustin Bizimungu.

In July 1994, faced with the advance of the FPR troops, Bizimungu fled Rwanda. On 12 August 2002, he was arrested in Luena, in eastern Angola, where he was uncovered amongst the demobilised combatants of the UNITA.

Furthermore, the current Rwandan Government has accused Bizimungu of having orchestrated, since the end of the genocide, various and sundry attacks against Rwanda, as head of the ex-FAR or the Interahamwe militia, from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

legal procedure

At the request of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Augustin Bizimungu was arrested on 12 August 2002, in Luena, in eastern Angola, where he was uncovered amongst the demobilised combatants of the UNITA. On 14 August 2002, he was transferred to the prison quarters of the United Nations in Arusha, Tanzania.

At his initial court appearance on 21 August 2002, Bizimungu pleaded not guilty to all of the nine Counts with which he was charged.

Bizimungu stood accused of “conspiracy to commit genocide”, “genocide” or in the alternative “complicity in genocide”. He was also accused of “murder as a crime against humanity”, of “extermination as a crime against humanity”, of “rape as a crime against humanity” of “persecution on political, racial or religious grounds as a crime against humanity” of “other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity” and various war crimes.

The ICTR, on request of the Chief Prosecutor, ordered a combined trial for Bizimungu and three other officers of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) accused of crimes committed throughout Rwanda in 1994. The three other co-accused are: Augustin Ndindiliyimana (Chief of Staff of the National Gendarmerie), Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye (Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion of the Rwandan Army) and Innocent Sagahutu (Second-in-Command of the Reconnaissance Battalion of the Rwandan Army).

The trial of Bizimungu and his co-accused, known as “Military Trial 2”, opened on 20 September 2004 before the Second Trial Chamber of the ICTR.

On 17 May 2011, the Trial Chamber II found the defendant guilty on 1 count of genocide (count 1), 3 counts of crimes against humanity (counts 4, 5 and 6, murder, extermination, rape) and 2 counts of violations of Art.3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II (counts 7 and 8, murder, rape).

The Trial Chamber II also found the defendant not guilty of conspiracy to commit genocide (count 1) and dismissed the charge of complicity in genocide (count 2).

The defendant was sentenced to 30 years of imprisonment.

On 7 February 2014, the Appeals Chamber severed Bizimungu’s case from those of Augustin Ndindiliyimana, François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, and Innocent Sagahutu.

Bizimungu submitted in his appeal that the Trial Chamber failed to make legal findings for his conviction regarding certain events. The Appeals Chamber considered all relevant factual findings and evidence to determine whether elements of crimes were established beyond reasonable doubt.

On 30 June 2014, the Appeals Chamber granted Bizimungu’s appeal on several counts, while the Prosecution’s appeal was dismissed in its entirety. The Appeals Chamber affirmed the conviction of Bizimungu as a superior and unanimously upheld the 30-year sentence.


Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.


In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.


In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.