This case summary is part of a collection of summaries describing the cases before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). See the Online Resource Hub pages on the ICTR and International Criminal Law, and table of ICTR case summaries for additional information.


Gacumbitsi (ICTR-01-64)

Trial Judgment: 17 June 2004; Appeal Judgment: 7 July 2006

In an important appellate decision addressing whether non-consent is an element of rape as a crime against humanity, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, the former Bourgmenstre (mayor) of Rusumo commune, stood trial for his organization and involvement in a massacre and other widespread crimes against Tutsis in Rusumo commune in 1994. The prosecution charged Gacumbitsi with direct and superior responsibility for genocide, complicity in genocide, and crimes against humanity for acts of extermination, murder, and rape.

In 2004, an ICTR Trial Chamber convicted Gacumbitsi of genocide and crimes against humanity for acts of extermination and rape after finding that Gacumbitsi was responsible for publicly instigating the rape of Tutsi women and girls and that Gacumbitsi planned, incited, and ordered, and aided and abetted the extermination of Tutsis in Rusumo.

In 2006, the ICTR Appeals Chamber, in an apparent divergence from the rule established in its Akayesu decision, held that a victim’s non-consent and the defendant’s knowledge thereof are implied elements of rape as a crime against humanity, but the Appeals Chamber nonetheless found that in the case of Gacumbitsi the prosecution’s evidence against Gacumbitsi satisfied these elements. The Appeals Chamber also overturned Gacumbitsi’s acquittal for murder as a crime against humanity, finding that the Trial Chamber erred by failing to consider that Gacumbitsi aided and abetted the murder of two tenants of a property he owned by expelling them from his property, while knowing that he was exposing the tenants to the risk of being targeted by attackers. The Appeals Chamber increased the Trial Chamber’s 30-year sentence to a sentence of life imprisonment.