Dutch prosecutors on Wednesday appealed a Rwandan-born woman’s six-year sentence for inciting genocide, insisting she deserved harsher punishment because she was a “co-perpetrator” of the 1994 massacres in the central African nation.
In the first such conviction, a court in the Netherlands earlier this month sentenced Yvonne Basebya, a 66-year-old Dutch citizen, to six years and eight months for her role in the slaughter of almost a million people, committed by Hutu extremists against minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Basebya was however acquitted on charges including war crimes and perpetrating genocide, for which prosecutors demanded a life sentence.
“We have formally lodged an appeal against the sentence,” prosecution spokesman Paul van der Zanden told AFP.
Basebya “played a greater role than just inciting youngsters to commit genocide. The public prosecutor has come to the conclusion that her role should be examined again as a co-perpetrator,” Van der Zanden said.
A judge at a March 1 hearing in The Hague found that although Basebya “called for hatred” it was not enough to convict her as a co-perpetrator of the slaughter of 110 Tutsis hiding in the Pallotines Church just south of the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
The infamous killings at the church in April 1994 were widely regarded as the first proof that a genocide was under way in Rwanda.
The mass killings — carried out largely with clubs and machetes — were sparked when the plane carrying Rwanda’s then-president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down on April 6, 1994.
His death was blamed on Rwanda’s Tutsi population, and over the next three months some 800,000 people, according to UN figures, were hacked to death.
Basebya followed her husband, Rwandan former MP Augustin Basebya — himself a former investigator for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda — to live in the Netherlands in 1998. She acquired Dutch nationality in 2004.
Dutch courts can try Netherlands citizens for genocide, or foreign suspects if the genocide was committed after October 1970, following a recently changed law to broaden prosecution possibilities for the most serious of all crimes.
A Dutch appeals court in July 2011 sentenced Rwandan citizen Joseph Mpambara to life in prison for war crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994, before the new genocide clause went into effect in April this year.