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A UN appeal court Monday overturned genocide convictions of two Rwandan ex-ministers who were jailed for 30 years in 2011, and ordered their immediate release.
Appeal judge Theodor Meron overturned convictions for complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide against Justin Mugenzi, who was trade minister during the 1994 genocide, and Prosper Mugiraneza, former minister in charge of civil servants.
The lower court had convicted the two on the grounds that they attended a council of ministers meeting that decided the then prefect of Butare, a region in southern Rwanda, was to be dismissed on the grounds that he was preventing the massacres from starting in his region.
The prefect, Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana, was killed after his dismissal and the massacres promptly started in Butare.
The lower court judges had ruled that the presence of Mugenzi and Mugiraneza at that meeting, and at another meeting two days later where interim president Theodore Sindikubwabo urged the population to kill Tutsis, meant that they were guilty of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide.
The appeal judges however found that Mugenzi and Mugiraneza did not know that Sindikubwabo was going to make such a speech, and that the dismissal of the prefect could have been decided "for political and administrative reasons" and not necessarily in order to speed up the massacres.