Georges Anderson Nderubumwe Rutaganda

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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Georges Anderson Nderubumwe Rutaganda was born on 28 November 1958 in Ngoma, prefecture of Kibuye. At the time of the events described here, he was an agricultural engineer and businessman. He acted as a chairman of his own limited liability company, named after himself, which imported food and beverages.

Georges Rutaganda was also a member of the national and the regional committee of the Mouvement Républicain National pour le Développement et la Démocratie (MRND; National Republican Movement for Development and Democracy) and shareholder of Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM; Free Radio and Television of the Thousand Hills).

On 6 April 1994 he occupied the post of second vice-president of the national committee of the Interahamwe, (an extremist Hutu militia of the MRND)In carrying out this function he was said to have encouraged and participated in several killings of civilians in Rwanda. He led house by house searches during which Tutsis were captured and executed.

At the beginning of April 1994, in particular, he reportedly ordered men under his control to kill 10 civilians of Tutsi origin using machetes.

During the same period he also was said to have participated in the attack on the Official Technical School , where unarmed people had found refuge. Many of them were killed and the survivors were taken away for identification purposes. Around 12 April 1994 those amongst them who were found to be of Tutsi origin were executed. Georges Rutaganda, together with others, organised and carried out these operations.

Georges Rutaganda was arrested on 10 October 1995 in Lusaka, Zambia, and transferred to Arusha on 26 May 1996.

legal procedure

Following his arrest on 10 October 1995, Georges Rutaganda was indicted and transferred to Arusha on 26 May 1996. The indictment presented by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on 13 February 1996 contained 8 counts, including genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.

On 6 December 1999, the Trial Chamber of the ICTR found Georges Rutaganda guilty on 3 counts: count 1 (genocide), count 2 (crime against humanity: extermination) and count 7 (crime against humanity: murder). He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

The defendant and the Prosecutor both appealed against this judgement on 5 and 6 January 2000 respectively. The Appeal Chamber’s decision was handed down on 26 May 2003.

The Chamber confirmed the convictions regarding counts 1 and 2, but acquitted the defendant of count 7 due to the lack of coherence in statements from various witnesses. Further, the Appeal Chamber found Rutaganda guilty on two new counts of wilful killing in violation of the common article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. This was the first time a defendant before the ICTR was convicted of war crimes.

The Appeal Chamber considered that the revised verdict with respect to both the acquittal and the two new counts did not affect the validity of the facts on which the Trial Chamber had based Rutaganda’s lifelong prison sentence. The sentence was therefore confirmed.


Georges Rutaganda was the first defendant to be convicted of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Rwanda.


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.