Leonidas Rusatira

01.05.2016 ( Last modified: 14.08.2018 )
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General Rusatira, born in 1934, was Commandant of the High Military School of Kigali during the genocide of 1994. During several years, he has been Secretary General for defence of Rwanda.

He is charged of five counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity (murder and extermination), and violations of the Geneva conventions.

According to the indictment of 12 April 2002, he would have been responsible, on 6 and 30 April, or around these dates, of massacres of members of the Tutsi’s population, with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, the racial or ethnic group.

He would have participated to the planification and execution of the crimes he is accused of. The indictment also indicates that his subordinates acting under his authority (military and Interahamwe, militia of the former party in power, the NRMD), have, de jure or de facto, committed these massacres, without the accused having taken necessary and reasonable measures to prevent them to do so, or to punish them.

It is also alleged that between 8 and 11 April 1994, Rusatira would have gone many times to the Official Technical School (OTS) in the province of Kicukiro (prefecture of Kigali rural) where the base of the Belgian military contingent of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMR) was located. He would have asked to the Belgian soldiers to leave the scene, claiming that “gendarmes and military of Rwanda could carry out the security of refugees”.

The indictment outlines that before these massacres, the OTS had been surrounded by military and Interahamwe, to whom Rusatira would have supplied weapons on 8 April 1994, or around this date.

During one of his visit to the OTS with his military escort, the accused would have evacuated some refugees he had selected. The prosecution adds that Rusatira was aware of the fact that the Belgian soldiers were leaving the OTS and that, consequently, refugees who were there were going to be killed by military and Interahamwe. Rusatira is reproached with not having taken any measure to stop the killings or punish the attackers acting under his authority.

The indictment adds that during the attack of 11 April 1994 at the OTS, “Rusatira was present and had the military under his orders, whereas Interahamwe answered Georges Rutaganda’s orders (see “related cases”), who was President of the National Committee of the Interahamwe at this time”.

The attack of 11 April would have led to the death of about a hundred people. Thousands of other refugees were rounded up and driven to Sonatures, close to the OTS. Rusatira would have told them to go to Nyanza where they would be safe. Those who were identified as Hutus would have been separated from the others. The Tutsis would have been slaughtered by military and Interahamwe using firearms and grenades. The few survivors would have been killed using weapons such as machetes.

General Rusatira had joined the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which took power and ended the genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in July 1994.

Several testimonies had reported his opposition to the genocide planed by the extremist Hutu power at that time.

M. Rusatira, who fled from Rwanda in 1995, was listed as organizer and planner of the genocide by the Rwandan government since 2000.

Rusatira was arrested in Belgium on 15 May 2002, on the basis of a warrant of arrest of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda, and incarcerated at the St Gilles prison in Brussels.

legal procedure

Rusatira was arrested in Belgium on 15 May 2002, on the basis of a warrant of arrest of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR), and incarcerated at the St Gilles prison in Brussels.

On 9 August 2002, the Prosecutor of the ICTR, Carla Del Ponte, asked for the authorization to withdraw the act of indictment established against Leonidas Rusatira, saying that evidence obtained in this investigation were insufficient to lead to a trial before a chamber.

On 14 August 2002, Judge Navanethem Pillay, President of the ICTR, who had to statute on the basis of this request, authorized the Prosecutor of the ICTR to “withdraw the act of indictment against Leonidas Rusatira without prejudice for her to look for the confirmation of another act of indictment against him, based on new evidence or additional proofs”.

This decision was motivated by the fact that the Leonidas Rusatira was listed as responsible of the genocide by Paul Kagame’s government for political considerations. In reality, witnesses of peacekeeping force in Rwanda outlined Leonidas Rusatira had saved many lives.

Consequently, Navanethem Pillay ordered the warrant of arrest of 12 April 2002 againt Rusatira to be cancelled, request to which the Prosecutor of the ICTR answered positively on 15 August 2002.


It is the second time that the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) asks for the authorization to withdraw an act of indictment against a detainee. The first time was in 1999 in the case of the Major Bernard Ntuyahaga, currently detained in Brussels, Belgium.


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.