As minister for women and family affairs in Rwanda, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko ordered the rape of women and girls and participated in genocide. She's the first woman to be convicted by the United Nations tribunal, seventeen years after the horrific events in Rwanda.
Nyiramasuhuko's son, who was in his early twenties then, was also convicted and sentenced to life. She has denied the charges against her.
Known throughout the country as simply "Pauline," in 1994 she presided over a brutal trick in Butare, her hometown: luring Tutsis to a stadium on the promise of Red Cross assistance, then slaughtering them. She appears to have a had a particular obsession with ordering soldiers to rape and mutilate women. According to a 2002 profile of her,
Her days as minister were... devoted to improving the lives of women and children. But at the stadium, a 30-year-old farmer named Foster Mivumbi told me, Pauline assumed a different responsibility. Mivumbi, who has confessed to taking part in the slaughter, told me that Pauline goaded the Interahamwe, commanding, ''Before you kill the women, you need to rape them.''
In this and other atrocities, the profile continues, "Pauline had led the soldiers to see rape as a reward." One woman who witnessed incomprehensible atrocities heard soldiers tell the women they were raping with machetes and spears, ''We are doing what was ordered by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko.'' It's estimated that 250,000 women were raped during the genocide, which killed roughly 800,000 people.
Many other women have been found guilty of genocide-related crimes in the local courts in Rwanda, according to the BBC, and two nuns were convicted in Belgium. But Nyiramasuhuko has always drawn particular fascination.
A paper in the Fordham Urban Law Journal, which argued that the surprise at her participation was connected to women's victimization during war because it perpetuated myths of female passivity: "Pauline's case shatters the myth that women, by their very nature, are incapable of being warriors." Or monsters.
Life Sentences In Rwanda Genocide Case [NYT]
Rwanda: Ex Women's Minister Guilty Of Genocide, Rape [BBC]
Related: A Woman's Work [NYT]