Edouard Karemera

31.05.2016 ( Last modified: 08.06.2016 )
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Edouard Karemera, alias Rukusanya, was born in 1951 in the commune of Mwendo in the prefecture of Kibuye, Rwanda. Lawyer by education, he was Minister of Institutional Relations in the government of May 1987. On 25 May 1994, he was appointed to the position of Interior Minister in the Interim Government. He held this post until mid-July 1994.

In this capacity, he had the responsibility to ensure the security of people and property throughout the entire territory of Rwanda. He wielded de jure authority and de facto control over the departmental prefects the vice prefects and the burgomasters and he had direct hierarchical authority over all the civil servants throughout the territory of Rwanda. Moreover, from July 1993, Karemera was Vice-President of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND, its French acronym) the party of the President) as well as being a member of its Cabinet. As such, he had effective control over the members of the youth wing of his party, the Interahamwe (the extremist Hutu militia). He also exercised authority and control over government officials in those prefectures and communes controlled by the MRND, as well as over the regional and national leaders of the “civil defence programme”.

According to a report published by the NGO, African Rights, based in London, Karemera was alleged to have been one of the proponents of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

For a period of several years, but mainly from end 1992 until July 1994, Karemera was said to have acceded to, executed and participated in the elaboration of a plan which was aimed at the extermination of the Tutsis. This plan consisted of, among other elements, having resort to hatred and ethnic violence, the training of and distribution of arms to militiamen, and the preparation of lists of those persons who were to be eliminated. In the execution phase of this plan, he was accused of having organised directed and participated in the massacres.

During the years 1993 and 1994, Karemera and others, were accused of taking measures in order to set up and extend their personal control, and that of the MRND Cabinet, over an organised militia group which would then respond favourably to their summons to kill the Tutsis.

During 1993 and 1994, Karemera was alleged to have been a frequent participant in MRND meetings, during which the Tutsis were characterised as “enemies”. On or around 27 October 1993, Karemera and others, were alleged to have participated in a mass meeting of thousands of people in the Umuganda stadium in Gisenyi. Karemera was said to have addressed the crowd and to have exhorted it to fight against the “enemy” Again, between April and June 1994, at various public gatherings, Karemera was reported to have made statements characterising the Tutsis as “enemies” to do battle with. Towards 3 May 1994, Karemera was said to have taken part in a meeting of the Kibuye communal committee during which he was reported to have called on the Interahamwe to “fight the enemy”. In Kibuye, massacres of the Tutsis increased after 3 May 1994.

From April to July 1994, by virtue of their official function, and by their speeches, their orders and directives, in addition to their actions and omissions, the members of the interim government, including Karemera, were accused of exerting control over the local authorities and the Interahamwe .These authorities and militiamen with the complicity of the military and with full knowledge of the Interim Government, of which Karemera was a member, committed mass killings of the Tutsis, from 6 April 1994 onwards, throughout the whole territory of Rwanda.

Between 8 April and 14 July 1994, in several prefectures such as Butare, Kibuye, Kigali, Gitarama and Gisenyi, ministers, prefects, burgomasters, government officials and the military, ordered, aided and incited to the commission of and personally committed, massacres against Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Karemera was in a position to know or ought to have known, that his subordinates had committed, or were about to commit such crimes and was said to have failed in preventing the crimes and in punishing the offenders. He was therefore accused of failing in his duty to ensure the security of the Rwandan population.

Between 11 and 14 July Karemera and other ministers were reported to have made official visits to several prefectures throughout the country, such as Butare, Kibuye and Gitarama, in order to supervise the implementation of the Government’s instructions, directives and guidance, especially in the areas of civil defence and national security. During their numerous trips, they were in a position to know, or should have known, that massacres of the civilian Tutsi population were underway. However, at no point in time did they take action to put a stop to these massacres or to punish those responsible.

Furthermore, between 24 April and 14 July 1994, Karemera and other ministers were said to have gone to several prefectures, such as Butare, Gitarama, Gisenyi, Kibuye and Cyangugu, in order to incite and goad the population into committing these massacres, notably by offering congratulations to the would be perpetrators.

About 18 April 1994, Karemera and others were said to have participated in a meeting at the Murambi school, during which the prefect and several burgomasters of the Gitarama prefecture were said to have asked the prime minister Jean Kambanda (see “related cases”) to send reinforcements in order to protect the Tutsi population from being massacred and to re-establish order in the region. But, to the contrary, several ministers and important political figures, were reported to have applied pressure on the Gitarama delegation to put an end to their protection of the Tutsis and to allow the Interahamwe militiamen to start the killings.

Towards the end of April 1994, Karemera was said to have gone to Mwendo in the commune from where he originated. He was reported to have made an address to the local administrative authorities and to the population which had assembled to welcome him urging them to go out and help with the commission of massacres in the region of Bisesero in the prefecture of Kibuye. Towards 17 June 1994, at a ministerial meeting, the Interim Government was said to have taken a decision to ask the Commander in Gisenyi for more reinforcements in order to commit further massacres of the surviving Tutsis who had taken refuge in the hills of Bisesero. Karemera in his capacity of Interior Minister was said to have attended this meeting and to have drafted in writing the following day the formal request to the Commander in Gisenyi. As a consequence, the slaughter of the Tutsis was further intensified, thanks to these reinforcements from Gisenyi.

On separate occasions during the month of June 1994, Karemera and others were said to have participated in meetings with influential businessmen close to the MRND. The aim of these meetings was to raise funds to purchase arms for distribution to the Interahamwe and to the soldiers of the regular army.

In mid-July, being 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), Karemera fled Rwanda. On 5 June 1998, he was arrested at his residence in Lomé, Togo.

legal procedure

Edouard Karemera fled Rwanda and was arrested, on request of the Prosecutor of the ICTR, on 5 June 1998 at his residence in Lomé, Togo. On 10 July 1998 he was transferred to the United Nations prison quarters in Arusha, Tanzania.

At his initial court appearance on 7 April 1999, Karemera refused to plead either guilty or not guilty to all of the 11 counts of the indictment. Based on the Regulations of the ICTR, the judges concluded that he had entered a not guilty plea. As a result, his act of indictment was modified on 21 November 2001.

The ICTR – at the prosecution’s request – decreed that a combined trial should be held for Karemera and three other senior people accused of crimes committed in different regions in Rwanda in 1994. The three other co-accused were : Mathieu Ngirumpatse (President of the MRND), Joseph Nzirorera (General Secretary of the MRND and President of the National Transitional Assembly) and André Rwamakuba (Minister for Primary and Secondary Education in the interim government).

The trial of Karemera and his co-accused, generally known as “Government Trial 1”, opened on 27 November 2003 before the Third Trial Chamber of the ICTR.

Based on an amended indictment dated 18 February 2004, which withdrew four of the eleven counts, a further initial court appearance took place on 23 February 2004. Karemera and his co accused boycotted the hearing. Based on the Regulations of the ICTR, the judges concluded that they had pleaded not guilty to the 7 counts with which they had been charged.

Karemera was accused of “conspiracy with intent to commit genocide”, “of direct and public incitation to commit genocide”, as well as “genocide” or alternatively “complicity in the crime of genocide” He was accused of “rape as a crime against humanity”, “extermination as a crime against humanity” and war crimes.

On 14 May 2004, the trial was suspended sine die, after the Senegalese judge Andresia Vaz, President of the Third Trial Chamber, withdrew from the case. This decision came after a request from the defence attorneys, demanding that Judge Vaz be disqualified for “lack of impartiality”. The judge was said to be too close to a member of the prosecution team in this affair, a person who had reportedly been given lodging at her home.

The lawyers for the defence demanded a new trial, a possibility provided for in the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the ICTR in the case of there being a vacant seat amongst the judges. However on 24 May 2004, the two remaining judges decided to continue the trial with a substitute judge. The four co-accused decided to appeal this decision.

On 21 June 2004, the judges of the Appeals Chamber, esteeming that the two judges of the Third Trial Chamber should have allowed the parties to present their arguments before taking their decision of 24 May, sent the case back to them requesting that they take into account all arguments that the parties would like to introduce.

On 16 July 2004, the two judges of the Trial Chamber, after hearing the arguments of both parties, decided to pursue the trial with a substitute judge. The co-accused again appealed this decision and on 28 September 2004, the ICTR Appeals Chamber repealed the decision to continue the trial with a substitute judge and decreed that the trial should be resumed from its point of departure. On 22 October 2004, the Appeals Chamber went even further by disqualifying the two remaining judges on the basis that they were felt to have made common cause with judge Vaz, knowing that she entertained good relations with a member of the Prosecutor’s office.

On the prosecutor’s request, the Trial Chamber separated Rwamakuba’s case from the joint case on 14 February 2005. Thus the prosecutor could introduce an amended indictment against the three remaining co-accused Nzirorera, Karemera and Ngirumpatse.

On 21 March 2005, the three accused made their further initial appearance before the newly reconstituted Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. They all pleaded not guilty to participating in the 1994 genocide.

On 24 August 2005, the Prosecutor filed a new amended indictment against the remaining co-accused Nzirorera,Karemera and Ngirumpatse.

The new trial formally started on 19 September 2005.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda delivered its judgment on 21 December 2011, Edouard Karemera was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.

On 29 September 2014 the court of appeal for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda confirmed Karemera’s sentence to life in prison. Although the court of appeal reversed the findings at first instance, they confirmed that he was guilty. Karemera will be kept in custody until the State decides where he should serve 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 Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.