Claver Berinkindi was born in 1955 in Rwanda. He left Rwanda during the genocide and came to Sweden in 2002, applying for refugee status. He obtained Swedish citizenship in 2012. He was arrested in 2014, in Stockholm.
Between 18 April and 31 May 1994 Berinkindi led attacks and participated in the killings of ethnic Tutsi. He was known for his ties with Hutu extremists.
He was involved in attacks in five different locations, including the village of Nyamiyaga and the surrounding area in the prefecture of Butare in Rwanda.
Official documents describe Berinkindi as one of the leaders in attacks on a municipal building in the municipality of Muyira and a nearby school that killed thousands. According to the file, some of the victims were buried alive, others killed with guns, spears, clubs and machetes. It is also mentioned that Berinkindi conducted attacks on the Nyamure mountain. He was also involved in the killings of families who had sheltered people fleeing the mass violence.
On that basis, Berinkindi was accused of murder, incitement to murder, attempted murder and abduction as genocide.
In 2007, Berinkindi was convicted in absentia of genocide-related crimes by a Rwandan Gacaca community court.
On 24 September 2014, Clever Berinkindi and another suspect, both originally from Rwanda, were arrested in Sweden for alleged participation in the Rwandan Genocide.
On 26 September 2014, as the other suspect was released, Berinkindi was held in prison awaiting trial. Having obtained Swedish citizenship, he was tried by the authorities of this country.
On 4 September 2015, Berinkindi was indicted by the Stockholm District court. His trial started on 16 September 2015. He pleaded not guilty. A the end of September, the Court travelled to Rwanda to visit the five locations of the crimes and to hear statements from victims and witnesses in Kigali.
On 16 May 2016 the Stockholm District Court found Berinkindi guilty of genocide and gross crime under international law consisting of murder, kidnapping and attempted murder, sentencing him to life imprisonment. The District Court also awarded damages to 15 crime victims in Rwanda.
On 15 February 2017, the Svea Court of Appeal upheld this 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.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)
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.
THE GACACA COURTS
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.