Clement Kayishema

22.02.2012 ( Last modified: 10.06.2016 )
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Clément Kayishema was born in 1954 in Bwishyura, Rwanda. In 1974 he was appointed Court Secretary to the Cantonal Tribunal of Kagnagare. One year later he obtained a scholarship grant which allowed him to register for the Faculty of Medicine at the National University of Rwanda in Butare. As soon as his studies were completed, he went into general practice and surgery. In 1984, the Rwandan government sent him to Uganda to practice medicine in a refugee camp. On his return to Rwanda, from 1986 to 1981, he was Director of Nyanza hospital, a position which he held until such time as he was assigned to the Kibuye hospital.

On 3 July 1992, he was appointed Prefet of the Department of Kibuye, and took up this post shortly afterwards. His position was ratified by the interim government in April 1994, just after the death of President Habyarimana. He fulfilled this function as Prefet of Kibuye until his escape to the Democratic Republic of Congo in mid-July 1994. In this position, he represented executive power at the prefectural level. During the 1994 massacres, he wielded both de jure authority and de facto control over the mayors, the gendarmerie and other law enforcement agencies which took part in the massacres.

Towards 14 April 1994, thousands of Tutsis sought refuge in the Mubuga church – situated 20 km from the town of Kibuye – looking for protection from the attacks which were already underway throughout the Kibuye prefecture. Kayishema and his subordinates, amongst whom could be numbered local government officials, gendarmes, units of the communal police and the Interahamwe (extremist Hutu militia), were present at the site and were said to have taken part in the attacks launched against the Mubuga church between 14 and 16 April and which resulted in the deaths of thousands of victims.

On 17 April 1994, Kayishema reportedly took part in the massacre of Tutsis who sought refuge in the grounds of the Catholic Church and the Saint John Home in the town of Kibuye. Here he allegedly played a role of primary importance by leading the assailants from the government offices to the scene of the massacre. Furthermore, it was he who was said to have given the order to attack, led the assault and incited those under his authority to kill, using a megaphone to convey the command from Kigali to kill all of the Tutsis. Kayishema also was said to have orchestrated the burning down of the church and during the full scale attack, stabbed to death a certain Rutabana who was to be found inside this church. This attack, which was reportedly instigated by Kayishema, resulted in thousands of dead and wounded.

On 18 April 1994, thousands of people, for the most part Tutsis, sought refuge inside the stadium in the town of Kibuye. On that same day, Kayishema allegedly went to the stadium and gave the order to units of the gendarmerie, to the local police and to the Interahamwe to attack the stadium. He orchestrated and ordered the assault which he himself led by firing the opening shots at the Tutsis assembled in the Stadium, hitting two of them. These attacks, said to have been instigated by Kayishema, resulted in thousands of dead and wounded.

Kayishema allegedly played a preponderant role in the systematic extermination of the Tutsis who had sought refuge in the Bisesero region located in the Kibuye prefecture. The massacres in the Bisesero region went on for several months, from April to June 1994, and caused tens of thousands of deaths. Transportation of the assailants to the site was assured by buses belonging to the Kibuye prefecture. Kayishema himself reportedly took part in these attacks.

On 13 and 14 April 1994, on the hillside of Muyira, Kayishema was said to have provided the transport for even more assailants, and incited them into attacking those Tutsis who had sought refuge in this area.

At the Kigamara cave in the Bisesero region, where dozens of Tutsis had sought refuge, Kayishema allegedly played a major role in the attack against the Tutsis who had gone into hiding there.

At various other places, Kayishema was said to have escorted units of the gendarmerie and the communal police as well as the Interahamwe militia and armed civilians into the Bisesero region and to have given them orders to attack the Tutsis who had sought refuge there.

In all of these places, it was Kayishema who reportedly drew up the plan of attack, led the charge of the assailants and incited them into perpetrating the massacres.

In the month of July 1994, confronted with the advance of the troops of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front – an opposition movement composed essentially of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kagame), Kayishema fled Rwanda in the direction of the Democratic Republic of Congo. On 2 May 1996, he was arrested in Zambia at the request of the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda).


legal procedure

Clément Kayishema was arrested, at the request of the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda), on 2 May 1996 in Zambia. On 26 May 1996, he was transferred to the prison quarters of the United Nations in Arusha, Tanzania.

At his initial court appearance, on 31 May 1996, Kayishema pleaded not guilty to all of the 24 counts with which he was charged. The ICTR ordered that the trial of Clément Kayishema be combined with that of Obed Ruzindana (see “related cases”). Their trial was opened on 11 April 1997. After hearing a number of witnesses, the Chamber retired to consider its verdict on 17 November 1998.

On 21 May 1999, the Second Trial Chamber of the ICTR pronounced its verdict and declared – unanimously – Clément Kayishema to be: guilty of “genocide” (1st count of indictment-for the massacre committed in the grounds of the Catholic Church and Saint Jean Home), guilty of “genocide” (7th count-for the massacre in the Kibuye stadium), guilty of “genocide” (13th count-for the massacre in the Mubuga Church), guilty of “genocide” (19th count-for the massacres in the Bisesero region). Kayishema was found not guilty of war crimes and other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity in each of the four places where these crimes were committed.

Moreover, the Chamber declared-by a majority- that Kayishema was not guilty of “extermination as a crime against humanity” and not guilty of “murder as a crime against humanity” for each of the four instances where the crimes were committed since, it was the considered opinion of the Chamber, that these two counts were wholly included in that of genocide. Judge Tafazzal Hossain Khan, however, issued a dissenting opinion in this respect.

Kayishema was sentenced to life imprisonment, the maximum punishment provided for by the ICTR.

He appealed his conviction, but on 1 June 2001, the Appeal Chamber of the ICTR confirmed the verdict of the Trial Chamber.

On 9 December 2001, he was transferred to Mali to serve out his 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 Kagameannounced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.


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