A former mayor who was one of the most wanted suspects in Rwanda's 1994 genocide has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for crimes against humanity and genocide, the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda said.
The court had charged Gregoire Ndahimana with being responsible for the deaths of about 2,000 Tutsis, most of whom died when bulldozers knocked down the church where they had sought refuge.
The court said in a statement the former mayor of Kivumu was found guilty of genocide and extermination by aiding and abetting and because he had authority over local police. The court said it dismissed another count of complicity in genocide.
The slaughter "reflected broad coordination" among several groups, the court noted.
"Though this did in no way exonerate the accused, it did, however, suggest that his participation through aiding and abetting may have resulted from duress rather than from extremism or ethnic hatred," the court's statement read.
Ndahimana had been on the run for 15 years before he was captured in Congo and sent to the detention facility in Arusha in 2009.
More than half a million members of the Tutsi ethnic minority and moderates from the Hutu majority were slaughtered during the 100-day genocide. Many former Hutu militia leaders fled to Congo, which neighbors Rwanda, after Tutsi rebels fought their way to power.
U.S. officials said in a statement that they welcomed the decision as "an important step in providing justice and accountability for the Rwandan people and the international community."
"The conviction of Mr. Ndahimana is of particular significance, because as mayor of Kivumu he had authority over the police, and yet failed to prevent the massacre of more than 1,500 people who sought refuge and protection.
Militia, police, civil and religious authorities participated in bulldozing the church, burying the refugees sheltered inside," read a statement issued by the State Department.
The U.S. also called on all countries to seek nine fugitives still sought by the court.