Skulls Of Rwandan Genocide Victims At Genocide Memorial Near Kigali
Around 800,000 people were slaughtered in just three months in 1994 in Rwanda. Reuters

The UN-backed war crimes tribunal for Rwanda has sentenced two former ruling party bosses seen as key organisers of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 to life imprisonment.

Matthieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera, who were president and vice-president respectively of the ruling National Revolutionary Movement for Development (NRMD) party at the time of the genocide, were found guilty by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

"The chamber unanimously condemns Ngirumpatse to life in jail," said presiding judge Dennis Byron, before pronouncing the same sentence for Karemera.

"After considering the gravity of the crimes for which Ngirumpatse has been found guilty as well as all the attenuating and aggravating circumstances, the court has the discretion to impose a single sentence and has decided to do that," the judge added.

The defendants were convicted of genocide for not having prevented or denounced the atrocities committed by the Interhamwe, a militia group mainly made up of young MRND members.

Over 100 days in 1994 800,000 people, mainly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed. The Interhamwe was one of the main perpetrators of the genocide.

The ICTR ruled that Ngirumpatse approved the delivery of arms to the Interahamwe militia at a hotel in the capital, Kigali, in April 1994.

"At that point in the genocide it could be assumed the weapons were going to be used to kill Tutsis," the panel of three judges ruled.

"The court concludes that the rapes and the sexual crimes carried out on Tutsi girls and women by soldiers and militia, including the Interahamwe, are a natural and predictable consequence of the joint criminal enterprise seeking to destroy the Tutsi ethnic group."