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Rwandan Pop Star Convicted by International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

From the ICTR website:

Trial Chamber III composed of Judges Inés Mónica Weinberg de Roca, Florence Rita Arrey and Robert Fremr, on Tuesday 2 December 2008, convicted Simon Bikindi of direct and public incitement to commit genocide and sentenced him to fifteen years imprisonment. Credit was given to him for time spent in prison. Simon Bikindi was born on 28 September 1954 in Rwerere commune, Gisenyi prefecture, Rwanda. In 1994, he was a famous singer and composer, and the leader of a ballet troupe, the Irindiro.

Simon Bikindi was charged with six counts: (1) conspiracy to commit genocide; (2) genocide or alternatively (3) complicity in genocide; (4) direct and public incitement to commit genocide; (5) murder and (6) persecution as crimes against humanity. The Prosecution alleged that, through his songs and speeches, and in concert with Interahamwe, RTLM, CDR, MRND and Government figures, Simon Bikindi participated in the anti-Tutsi campaign in Rwanda in 1994, inciting and promoting hatred and violence against Tutsi, thereby encouraging the genocide. The Prosecution also alleged that Simon Bikindi was responsible for specific attacks and killings in Gisenyi prefecture, most of them perpetrated by Interahamwe, some being members of the Irindiro ballet. Three of Bikindi’s songs were specifically referred to in the Indictment: Twasezereye, Nanga Abahutu and Bene Sebahinzi.

The Chamber found that all three songs manipulated the history of Rwanda to extol Hutu solidarity. It also found that Bikindi composed Nanga Abahutu and Bene Sebahinzi with the specific intention to disseminate pro-Hutu ideology and anti-Tutsi propaganda, and thus to encourage ethnic hatred. The Chamber further found that all three songs were deployed in 1994 in Rwanda in a propaganda campaign to promote contempt for and hatred of the Tutsi population, and to incite people to attack and kill Tutsi. The Chamber found that their broadcasting by RTLM during the genocide had an amplifying effect on the genocide. However, the Chamber found that it had, not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that Bikindi had played any role in these broadcasts or in the dissemination of the three alleged songs in 1994.

Furthermore, the Chamber found that the Prosecution failed to prove that Bikindi conspired with political figures or the individuals alleged in the Indictment to commit genocide or that he was responsible for any of the specific attacks or killings charged. However, it found beyond reasonable doubt that, Simon Bikindi used a vehicle outfitted with a public-address system on the main road between Kivumu and Kayove at the end of June 1994 to incite people to exterminate Tutsi.

Accordingly, the Chamber found Simon Bikindi guilty of direct and public incitement to commit genocide for his calls to exterminate Tutsi at the end of June 1994 on the Kivumu-Kayove road and acquitted him on the counts of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, and murder and persecution as crimes against humanity. The Chamber considered that there were no mitigating factors, and that the fact that Simon Bikindi abused his stature by using his influence to incite genocide is an aggravating factor.

Simon Bikindi was arrested in The Netherlands on 12 July 2001 and transferred to the Tribunal on 27 March 2002. The indictment against him was confirmed on 5 July 2001, and a warrant of arrest and transfer was issued. His trial commenced on 18 September 2006. The Defence case concluded on 7 November 2007. A site visit was organised in April 2008, followed by the closing arguments on 26 May 2008. (emphasis added)

HT: Robert Michael Murray

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Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.