Emmanuel Rukundo

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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Emmanuel Rukundo was born on 1 December 1959 in Kabgayi, in the Gitamara Prefecture, Rwanda. After having studied at the Nyakibanda seminary, Rukundo was ordained a priest in July 1991. He was put in charge of a parish to the north of Kabgayi. Subsequently, he was appointed army Chaplain, a position he occupied throughout the year 1994.
In April 1994, Rukundo has participated, with military and Interhamwe (member of the extremist Hutu militia), to the kidnapping of Tutsis who sought refuge at the “Petit séminaire Saint Léon”, in Gitarama (center of Rwanda). Several of these Tutsis were then killed.
On 21 May 1994, Rukundo would have attempted to rape a Tutsie woman in chamber of the “Petit séminaire Saint Léon”.

Rukundo reportedly adopted an extremist position on the side of the Hutus and became committed to taking action against the Tutsis. He was said to have been responsible for the murder of a great number of Tutsis. He was also considered to have betrayed a great number of Tutsis during the troubles in Rwanda by forwarding to the army and the authorities, lists with their names and addresses. Many Tutsis were killed as a result of this. Accompanied by soldiers, he reportedly went out looking for Tutsis who were fleeing in order to kill them. He is said to have made the following statement: “The Tutsis are a race which should be wiped out. We must fight them with all the means at our disposal”.
After the Rwandan genocide, he left the country and asked for asylum in Switzerland. From 1999 he fulfilled the office of curate in St. Paul’s parish, Geneva.
On 11 July 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) requested the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs to arrest Rukundo and to transfer him to the Tribunal. The ICTR indictment accused Rukundo of counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The following day Rukundo was arrested in Geneva.


legal procedure

On 11 July 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) requested the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs to arrest Rukundo and to transfer him to the Tribunal. The ICTR indictment accused Rukundo of counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The following day Rukundo was arrested in Geneva.

On 10 August 2001, the Federal Tribunal confirmed his detention with a view to his f extradition and rejected, on 3 September 2001, the appeal against the decision to transfer him to the ICTR.

On 20 September Rukundo was transferred to the ICTR in Arusha.

His trial before the ICTR started on 15 November 2006 and closed on 20 February 2008.
On 20 February 2008, the prosecutor asked for a lifelong prison sentence. His defense council on the other hand, asked for acquittal, and complained about the “precipitated end to the presentation of the evidence”, adding that Rukundo was “a victim of the closure strategy” of the ICTR- which is under obligation to terminate all of its first instance trials before the end of the year- claiming further that they were prevented from calling upon at least three witnesses.
On 27 February 2009, Rukundo was found guilty of genocide, and murder and extermination as crimes against humanity. He was sentenced to 25 years of prison.

On 20 October 2010, the Appeals Chamber decided to decrease Rukundo’s prison sentence from 25 to 23 years imprisonment. Despite the fact that the indictment was referring to the “ordering, instigating, and aiding and abetting” of genocide at the Saint Joesph’s College and the Saint Léon Minor Seminary, the Trial Chamber had mistakenly convicted Rukundo of “committing” genocide.



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.


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