Dutch court: woman incited genocide in Rwanda

March 1, 2013 - 9:30 AM
Netherlands Rwanda Genocide

Yvonne Bassebya, foreground left, defense attorneys Victor Koppe, right, and Tamara Buruma, second right, listen as judges delivered the sentence in a case of suspected of involvement in Rwanda's genocide, in The Hague, Netherlands, Friday March 1, 2013. Bassebya was sentenced to a 6 years and 8 months prison term for incitement to genocide. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch court on Friday convicted a Rwandan-born Dutch woman of inciting genocide in Rwanda's 1994 mass murders of ethnic Tutsis by members of the Hutu tribe — the first conviction of a Dutch citizen for the crime.

The Hague District Court sentenced Yvonne Basebya, 66, to six years and eight months in prison for her role, the maximum available prison term at the time of the crimes.

The judges said they imposed the maximum sentence, "in the realization that this punishment does not do justice to the extremely serious nature of the proven criminal acts."

The 125-page written judgment said that she led meetings in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, of a radical Hutu party and sang a song that called for the murder of all Tutsis.

However, the court acquitted her of the more serious crimes of genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide, saying there was no evidence that she helped compile lists of people to be killed, or that she actually participated in the killings.

Basebya, wearing a pink sweater and earrings of small crosses at the end of long chains, sat silently throughout the hearing but tried to call out to supporters in the public gallery as police bundled her out of the courtroom.

Her lawyer said he would advise her to appeal against the conviction even though she was cleared of most charges.

"The picture that is now being painted is not at all in accordance with the complex nature of what happened," said attorney Victor Koppe. "There were so many witnesses who knew her, who were there, who have said that this is absolutely not what was happening at the time."

Koppe argued at trial that prosecution witnesses had deliberately lied as a way of getting their hands on Basebya's property in Rwanda.

Prosecutors said they would study the judgment before deciding whether to appeal the acquittals.

Spokesman Jirko Patist said he was pleased the court had accepted evidence of Basebya's involvement.

"The suspect recruited youths and incited them to commit genocide, to commit murders," he said. "The court called her an essential link in the genocide."

Basebya emigrated to the Netherlands in 1998 and gained citizenship in 2004, before her crimes were known. She was prosecuted as a Dutch citizen, though war crimes can be prosecuted anywhere.

Three other Rwandans have been arrested in the Netherlands for their alleged role in their nation's genocide — two were extradited to the Rwanda tribunal in Tanzania and the third was convicted in a Dutch court of war crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment.