Charles Sikubwabo

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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Charles Sikubwabo is believed to have been born sometime in the early to mid 1940s in Gishyita, in Gishyita commune in Kibuye prefecture, Rwanda. He was a Chief Adjutant in the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR). In 1993, he was appointed mayor of Gishyita, a position he held until July 1994. By virtue of his position, he exercised control over his commune, including his subordinates in the executive branch and members of the Communal Police and National Gendarmerie. Sikubwabo was indicted for having played a preponderant role in the systematic extermination of Tutsis in various locations throughout Kibuye prefecture in 1994.

Between 9 April and 30 June 1994, Sikubwabo is alleged to have been present at and to have participated in the killing of Tutsis throughout the Kibuye prefecture.

By about 14 April 1994, thousands of Tutsi were congregated in the church in Mubuga -located 20 km from the town of Kibuye – seeking refuge from the attacks against them which had already taken place all over the Kibuye prefecture. Charles Sikubwabo and others (notably Clément Kayishema and Ryandikayo; see “related cases”) were said to have given the order to members of the National Gendarmerie, to the Communal Police of Gishyita, to the Interahamwe (an extremist Hutu militia) and to armed civilians to launch an attack against the church. Furthermore, Sikubwabo was charged with having personally participated in this attack against the church in Mubuga between 14 and 16 April 1994 which resulted in the death of thousands of refugees.

Between 9 April and 30 June 1994, tens of thousands of Tutsi and Hutu moderates – who were fleeing the massacres taking place in Kibuye prefecture – sought refuge in the hills in the region of Bisesero. The killings in the Bisesero area, spanning the two communes of Gishyita and Gisovu in Kibuye prefecture, occurred over a period of several months from April to June 1994 and resulted in the death of tens of thousands of refugees. Throughout this period, the area was under almost daily attack. The attackers used guns, grenades, machetes, spears and other weapons to kill Tutsi refugees.

At various locations and times throughout April, May and June 1994, Charles Sikubwabo, often in concert with others (notably Clement Kayishema, Obed Ruzindana and Aloys Ndimbati; see “related cases”), brought to the area of Bisesero members of the National Gendarmerie, the Communal Police of Gishyita and Gisovu communes, the Interahamwe and armed civilians, and directed them to attack the people who had sought refuge there. In addition, Sikubwabo was accused of having personally attacked and killed persons seeking refuge in Bisesero. These attacks resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of refugees, in addition to numerous injuries.
In July 1994, faced with the advance of the troops of the FPR (the Rwandan Patriotic Front, an opposition movement composed essentially of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kagame), Sikubwabo fled Rwanda most probably in the direction of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As of today’s date, he has still not been captured.

legal procedure

Charles Sikubwabo fled Rwanda in July 1994. As of today’s date, he has still not been captured.

As indicated in the amended indictment dated 29 April 1996, Sikubwabo was charged, along with seven other persons, on 13 counts, grouping together seven distinct crimes. He was indicted for “conspiracy with a view to commit genocide” (1st count), and “genocide” (14th and 20th counts). He was also indicted for “murder as a crime against humanity” (15th and 21st counts), “extermination as a crime against humanity” (16th and 22nd counts), “other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity” (17th and 23rd counts) as well as various war crimes (18th, 19th and 25th counts).

On 11 June 2002, the United States conducted a major media campaign in Kenya aimed at the capture of several men wanted by the ICTR, one of which being Sikubwabo. Although the American federal programme “Rewards for Justice” had already been used in an attempt to find persons indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, this was the first time it had been used against persons under accusation by the ICTR. A reward of up to $ 5’000’000 was put on offer for information leading to the arrest of Sikubwabo.

On 26 March 2012, the ICTR decided to transfer his case to Rwanda. The judges estimated that “in recent years, Rwanda has made material changes in its laws and has indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by this Tribunal.’’


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.