A U.N. court Friday ordered a former Rwandan mayor to serve three life terms for genocide and crimes against humanity, plus 80 years for other violations, including rape.
In the first judgment by an international court on genocide, Jean-Paul Akayesu was convicted Sept. 2 of nine counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and rape.
Akayesu had made an impassioned plea Monday for forgiveness from the Rwandan people for his failure to stop the genocide of more than 500,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis, in 1994.
Judge Laity Kama said Akayesu "chose to participate in the genocide," and should therefore spend the rest of his life in prison, the Swiss-based Hirondelle news agency reported.
"The chamber is of the opinion that genocide constitutes the crime of crimes," Kama said. "The sentences should be served concurrently and therefore (the chamber) sentences Akayesu to (what amounts to) a single sentence of life."
Akayesu stood silently, showing no emotion as the sentence was read.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was formed in November 1994, just months after an extremist Hutu government sponsored the 90-day slaughter. The genocide ended only when Tutsi-led rebels took power in July 1994.
Akayesu was the mayor of the central village of Taba, where 2,000 Tutsis who sought his help were killed. He has maintained his innocence, claiming he was unable to stop the killing. He is appealing his convictions, Hirondelle reported.
Acting in his own defense, Akayesu had asked for a pardon from the Rwandan people, saying he regretted what happened "from the bottom of my heart." He also asked for God's forgiveness, Hirondelle reported.
Prosecutor Pierre Prosper responded by calling the former mayor a predator and asked for seven life terms plus lesser sentences for other crimes. He later said he was satisfied with Akayesu's life sentence, the maximum penalty the tribunal can impose.
The tribunal had ruled that rape and sexual violence were brutally wielded as tools of genocide in Rwanda in 1994. No one accused Akayesu of rape, but witnesses said he incited the sexual abuse of Tutsi women. He was sentenced to 15 years for rape.