Tabaro Theodore (Rukertabaro)
Theodore Tabaro was born in Rwanda in 1969 as Theodore Rukertabaro.
He was allegedly involved in the 1994 Rwandan genocide against ethnic Tutsis, in which about 800’000 people were killed. Between 9 April and May 1994, he reportedly contributed to the genocide in Winteko, Nyakaninya and Mibirizi sectors, in the south-western part of the country. On 9 April 1994, he reportedly took part in a massacre of several civilians and large-scale rape of women and girls. He was also allegedly involved in the 13 April 1994 attack against the Nyakanyinya school, and subsequently in an attack against the Mibirizi church.
He arrived in Sweden in 1998 and became a Swedish citizen in 2006.
On 25 October 2016, Theodore Tabaro was arrested in his home in Orebro on suspicion of involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The accused was subsequently placed in detention by the Stockholm District Court and the War Crimes Commission of the Swedish police took over the investigation.
On 6 September 2017, Theodore Tabaro was charged with murder, attempted murder, rapes and kidnappings committed against the Tutsi minority. He is accused of having organised, recruited, incited and executed massacres against the Tutsis.
On 26 September 2017, the Swedish war crimes unit travelled to Rwanda to gather evidence and to interview witnesses and victims. Art least 36 murders and 7 rapes have been identified in the course of investigations. More than 30 victims and relatives of the victims participated in the proceedings as civil parties.
His trial opened on 27 September 2017 before a special chamber of a court in Stockholm.
On 27 June 2018, he was sentenced by the court to life imprisonment for genocide through murder, attempted murder and abduction of members of the Tutsi ethnic minority. However, he was acquitted of the rape charges.
Tabaro was ordered to compensate 16 victims. Each was granted between 25,000 to 102,000 Swedish Krona (approximately 2,800 to 11,600 US dollars).
Tabaro appealed the decision of the Stockholm District Court. His appeal trial was opened on 10 September 2018. The Appeals Chamber visited Rwanda to examine the crime scenes and the building of a court from which the Rwandan victims testified through videoconference.
In April 2019, the verdict and sentence were upheld by the Appeal Chamber, the decision is final.
Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994, the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutus 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 largely outnumbered the genocidaires and the international community notoriously failed to respond otherwise at the relevant period.
THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)
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. The Resolution established the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.
The Tribunal’s function was to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in the territory of Rwanda, by Rwandan citizens and those committed in neighbouring states. During its existence, 93 persons have been indicted by the ICTR, the Tribunal was officially closed in 2015.
Some proceedings are however still ongoing before the so-called International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”). The Mechanism was established by the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1966 (2010) and took over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism has been functioning since 1 July 2012 in parallel with the Tribunals and nowadays as an exclusive institution. It gradually took over the functions of the ICTR and 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 protection of witnesses.
THE GACACA COURTS
In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. Paul Kagame, 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 the 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.