Arusha, April 27th, 2000 (FH) - Former Rwandan gendarmerie (paramilitary police) boss Augustin Ndindiliyimana on Thursday pleaded not guilty to genocide charges before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In an initial appearance, Ndindiliyimana pleaded not-guilty to all ten charges against him, which include genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes.

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General Ndindiliyimana is jointly accused with several other suspects, whose names the prosecution has not disclosed. The prosecution accuses the former gendarmerie boss of conspiring with others in a plan to exterminate Tutsi civilians and members of the moderate Hutu opposition, so as to keep themselves in power. "As from April 7th, 1994, massacres of the Tutsi population, which included on many occasions rapes, sexual assaults and other crimes of a sexual nature, and the murder of numerous political opponents were perpetrated throughout the territory of Rwanda," says the indictment. It says these crimes had been planned and prepared for a long time by "prominent civilian and military figures who shared the extremist Hutu ideology". They were carried out, says the prosecution, by "militiamen, military personnel and gendarmes on the orders and directives of some of these authorities, including General Augustin Ndindiliyimana". Ndindiliyimana, along with others, is also accused of the murder of 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers in Kigali barracks on April 7th, 1994. "Augustin Ndindiliyimana was about 100 metres away, participating in a meeting," says the indictment. "Informed of the danger faced by the Belgian soldiers at Kigali military camp, (he) did not take any decision and carried on with the meeting". The Belgians, who formed part of an escort protecting the murdered former Prime Minister Agathe Uwiliyingimana, were beaten to death by Rwandan soldiers. Their murder provoked the withdrawal of Belgian forces and subsequent slashing of the UN force, right at the start of the genocide. The prosecution says Ndindiliyimana also sabotaged a joint disarmament operation which the UN forces (UNAMIR) had said up in Kigali in early 1994, in collaboration with the gendarmerie. He is accused of informing the ruling party bosses where weapons searches were planned, so that Interahmwe militia could move their arms elsewhere. Ndindiliyimana is also held responsible for crimes committed by his subordinates. The accused was arrested in Belgium on January 29th this year, and transferred to the UN detention centre in Arusha on April 22nd. He was represented for the initial appearance by a Tanzanian duty counsel, Bharat Chada. AT/JC/FH (ND%0427e)