Arusha, August 12th, '99 (FH) - A lead prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said on Thursday that new charges of rape against woman genocide suspect Pauline Nyiramasuhuko reflects the responsibility she held over her subordinates as former Minister for Women's Development and Family Welfare. Earlier in the day Nyiramasuhuko and her son, former militiaman Arsène Ntahobali, pleaded not guilty to a new joint indictment, amended to include two charges of rape against both of them.

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As well as being the first woman charged with genocide, Nyiramasuhuko is now the first to be charged with rape. She and her son are accused of planning and inciting murder and rape of ethnic Tutsis in the Butare region of southern Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. "She was a superior to whoever was moving around in the area," Senior Trial Attorney Japhet Mono of Tanzania told Hirondelle. "She was inciting those people, including the Interahamwe [extremist Hutu militia] to rape and as such she is equally responsible with those who committed the act. "The prosecution team, led by Mono, has introduced two rape charges, one as a crime against humanity and one as a violation of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. Explaining the crimes against humanity (rape) charge he said ""It's an operation of mind, because your intention is to abuse, by using that means [rape] as a weapon. "With regard to rape as a war crime he told Hirondelle that: "Civilians in a war situation have the right to be protected by whoever is responsible," but that the former minister had instead used her influence to incite rape and abuse them. The genocide took place against a background of civil war in Rwanda between the Hutu government and Tutsi RPF rebels. The first man ever to be convicted of genocide by an international court, former Rwandan mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, was also found guilty of rapes committed by other people under his authority. The ICTR sentenced him to life imprisonment in September last year, and the case has now gone to appeal. The Rwanda tribunal has recently amended the indictments of several other genocide suspects to include rape charges. JC/JMG/FH (BT§0812f)