Jean-Paul Akayesu (born 1953) is a former teacher, school inspector, and Republican Democratic Movement (MDR) politician from Rwanda. He served as mayor of Taba commune from April 1993 until June 1994.
As mayor, Akayesu was responsible for performing executive functions and maintaining order in Taba, meaning he had command of the communal police and any gendarmes assigned to the commune. He was subject only to the prefect. He was considered well-liked and intelligent.
During the Rwandan Genocide of mid-1994, many Tutsis were killed in Akayesu's commune, and many others were subject to violence and other forms of hatred. Akayesu not only refrained from stopping the killings, but personally supervised the murder of various Tutsis. He also gave a death list to other Hutus, and ordered house-to-house searches to locate Tutsis.
He stood trial for 15 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity, including rape during the Rwandan Genocide and violations of the Geneva Convention. Pierre-Richard Prosper was the lead prosecutor. Akayesu's defence team argued that Akayesu had no part in the killings, and that he had been powerless to stop them. In short, the defence argued, Akayesu was being made a scapegoat for the crimes of the people of Taba.
Despite this defence, the ICTR found him guilty of 9 counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, but Not Guilty of Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions. This was notable in that it was the first time that the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was enforced and in doing so clearly differentiated the mental element of the crime Genocide from the mental element in the breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The court clarified that Genocide is a specific crime that takes the accused outside of the scope of armed conflict  On October 2, 1998, Akayesu was sentenced to life imprisonment.
He was represented by Montreal lawyer John Philpot, brother of Parti Québécois politician and author Robin Philpot; this connection later surfaced in the 2007 Quebec general election after statements from Robin Philpot's book Rwanda 1994: Colonialism Dies Hard appearing to deny the extent of the genocide were widely publicized.
"Report of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Genocide and Other Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of Rwanda and Rwandan Citizens Responsible for Genocide and Other Such Violations Committed in the Territory of Neighbouring States between 1 January and 31 December 1994":
The Prosecutor v. Jean Paul Akayesu (ICTR-96-4-T)
14. On 2 September 1998, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, composed of Judges Laïty Kama, Presiding, Lennart Aspegren and Navanethem Pillay, found Jean Paul Akayesu guilty of 9 of the 15 counts proffered against him, including genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination, murder, torture, rape and other inhumane acts). Jean Paul Akayesu was found not guilty of the six remaining counts, including the count of complicity in genocide and the counts relating to violations of article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II thereto.
15. The Akayesu judgement includes the first interpretation and application by an international court of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
16. The Trial Chamber held that rape, which it defined as "a physical invasion of a sexual nature committed on a person under circumstances which are coercive", and sexual assault constitute acts of genocide insofar as they were committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a targeted group, as such. It found that sexual assault formed an integral part of the process of destroying the Tutsi ethnic group and that the rape was systematic and had been perpetrated against Tutsi women only, manifesting the specific intent required for those acts to constitute genocide.
17. On 2 September 1998, Jean Paul Akayesu was sentenced to life imprisonment for each of the nine counts, the sentences to run concurrently.
18. Both Jean Paul Akayesu and the Prosecutor have appealed against the judgement rendered by the Trial Chamber.
Akayesu is serving his sentence in a prison in Mali.
The trial is the subject of the 2015 documentary film, The Uncondemned.
- International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda – The prosecutor versus Jean-Paul Akayesu: Judgement e.g. nr. 648
- AKAYESU, Jean Paul (ICTR-96-4)
- THE PROSECUTOR VERSUS JEAN-PAUL AKAYESU (See para 643 and 644).
- THE PROSECUTOR VERSUS JEAN-PAUL AKAYESU
- "Boisclair under fire over candidate's genocide remark". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- Fourth Annual Report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.