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Rwanda Inmates Confess to Genocide

May 15, 1998

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) _ About 2,000 Rwandans accused of taking part in a 1994 genocide have confessed and admitted their involvement in an attempt to avoid being executed if convicted, the Justice Ministry said today.

The prisoners confessed in a letter signed at Ririma prison, 45 miles south of Kigali, the ministry said.

On April 24, firing squads executed 22 Rwandans, among the first convicted of genocide in the Hutu-orchestrated slaughter of more than 500,000 people, mostly minority Tutsis.

Under Rwandan law, defendants who confess are eligible for reduced sentences such as life in prison rather than execution.

Justice Secretary-General Gerard Gahima told state-run radio the sentences of those who confessed would be reduced. Other confessions are coming in, he said.

More than 125,000 people are awaiting trial in Rwanda. At least 330 people have been tried, and 88 have been sentenced to death.

The United Nations is conducting separate trials of Rwandan genocide suspects in Tanzania. The maximum penalty the tribunal can impose is life in prison.

The U.N. tribunal was founded in November 1994 but has yet to complete a single trial. One man pleaded guilty, but he has not yet been sentenced.

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