Rwanda: Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Important Missing Puzzle Piece

The crime of “genocide” is defined in Articles II and III of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide , which was adopted by “Resolution 260 (III) A” of the United Nations General Assembly on December 9th, 1948.

Article II describes two elements of the crime of genocide:

1) the mental element, meaning the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such”,


2) the physical element which includes five acts described as follow:

(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Article III describes five punishable forms of the crime of genocide:

(a) Genocide;
(b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
(c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
(d) Attempt to commit genocide;
(e) Complicity in genocide.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has a mandate to prosecute serious crimes committed in Rwanda from January 1st, 1994 to December 31st, 1994, including crimes of genocide, but also crimes of conspiracy to commit genocide.

However, up to date, the collection of evidence to establish the later crime remains unsolved puzzle for the Prosecutor of the ICTR as shown by judgments in the Military-I trial on December 18, 2008: The Prosecutor versus Theoneste Bagosora et al., Case No. ICTR-98-41-T.

With regard to the elements underpinning the allegation of planning and conspiracy, the ICTR concluded that “Accordingly, the Chamber is not satisfied that the Prosecution has proven beyond reasonable doubt that the four Accused conspired amongst themselves, or with others to commit genocide before it unfolded on 7 April 1994”. (Case No. ICTR-98-41-T, Para. 2114).

Indeed, all four defendants (Col. Theoneste Bagsosora, Gen. Gratien Kabiligi, Col. Anatole Nsengiumva and Major Aloys Ntabakuze) were found “not guilty” of all counts charging conspiracy to commit genocide, based on the Chambers ruling that their actions prior to April 6, 1994 were based on war-time conditions, not planning to kill civilians or to carry out a genocide against Tutsi Rwandans.

Please find here additional valuable documentations with regard to this topic.

More details on how the ICTR reached this important conclusion can also be found in the following excerpts of Case No. ICTR-98-41-T, from p.504 to p.508.

“2098. Turning now to the elements underpinning the allegation of planning and conspiracy, the Prosecution acknowledges that its case is principally circumstantial. 2321 There are only a few alleged meetings which could be characterised as planning genocide. The allegations instead refer, among other things, to statements made by the Accused, their affiliation with certain clandestine organisations, general warnings, of which some were circulated publicly, that the Interahamwe or groups with the military were plotting assassinations and mass killings, and their role in the preparation of lists as well as the arming and training of civilians. Most of the components of the planning have been extensively considered in other parts of the judgment (III.2). However, the Chamber finds it useful to briefly recapitulate the
findings on the events, which the Prosecution has highlighted in its Closing Brief and oral submissions, and view them together in the legal context of an allegedconspiracy. 2322 The Chamber has nonetheless also taken into account the evidencerelated to the other events not specifically referred to by the Prosecution. Continue reading