Top Rwanda genocide suspect trial starts

January 18, 2011 12:00 am

, ARUSHA, Jan 18 – The trial of a top Rwandan genocide suspect, a former army captain nicknamed the "Butcher of Butare", began Monday before the UN tribunal trying masterminds of the 1994 mass killings.

Captain Ildephonse Nizeyimana is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes which he denied in earlier hearings after his arrest and transfer to the Tanzania-based court in 2009.

The prosecutor has presented Nizeyimana, 48, as being part of the inner circle of former president Juvenal Habyarimana. At the time of his alleged crimes he was second-in-command of a military school in Butare.

"There are myriad examples of Captain Nizeyimana ordering those under his influence to attack, kill and rape civilians identified as Tutsi," Drew White from the prosecutor\’s office said.

He said all the crimes Nizeyimana stands accused of were committed in and around the southern town of Butare in April and May 1994 and that he would call on both victims and colleagues of the accused to testify.

Among the victims, a woman known as ZAR to protect her identity "who was a servant in the home of Queen Rosalie Gicanda will describe how 10 soldiers arrived in a vehicle, communicated by radio and took the Gicanda family away," said White, a Canadian.

Gicanda was a traditional Tutsi queen.

Another witness, referred to as ZAP "was part of that family, as the granddaughter of Queen Rosalie Gicanda," he continued.

"She too describes how the soldiers arrived at Gicanda\’s home, abducted them at gunpoint, drove them … to a rural area where the soldiers ordered everyone out of the car, and while the group was saying prayers, the soldiers shot at them."

He said that witness ZAP saw that Rosalie Gicanda had been shot while she herself was wounded but survived.

The prosecutor\’s representative said "the accused was at all times aware that the attacks were part of a broader widespread or systematic attack on the Tutsi civilian population" and he used his authority as an officer and a leader to actively undermine public order.

But Nizeyimana\’s Canadian lawyer John Philpot dismissed the accusations as "completely ridiculous."

He said Nizeyimana, who was captured in October 2009 in Uganda and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), is one of several people accused simply because he worked under Habyarimana.

Philpot also denied that his client was ever part of the former president\’s inner circle.

With the start of Nizeyimana, the ICTR has just one accused in pre-trial detention, the pentecostal pastor Jean Uwinkindi. A further 10 accused are still fugitives from justice, among them Felicien Kabuga, the businessman alleged to have funded the genocide.


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