Arusha, November 2nd, 2000 (FH) - The trial of former Rwandan pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son Gérard for their alleged role in the 1994 genocide is set to start on April 23rd, 2001, before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Gérard Ntakirutimana, a former medical doctor, on Thursday pleaded not-guilty to an amended indictment which stresses his command responsibility in killings at a hospital.

1 min 47Approximate reading time

Reliable sources said the parties agreed the trial date in a closed session, after the defense asked for a postponement of the provisional January date. After a year of holding only one trial, the ICTR has recently started three new trials: the so-called media and Cyangugu trials and that of former Rwandan mayor Laurent Semanza. That of former mayor Juvénal Kajelijeli is scheduled to start on January 22nd, and of former Information Minister Eliezer Niyitegeka the following month. The two Ntakirutimanas are accused of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. They are accused of planning and carrying out massacres of Tutsi refugees in the Mugonero complex in Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda, and in the mountainous Bisesero region, also in Kibuye. The Mugonero complex included the Seventh Day Adventist church of which Elizaphan was pastor, and a hospital where Gérard was a senior doctor. The accused are charged jointly in two indictments, which charge them separately for events in Mugonero and Bisesero. The Mugonero indictment also includes the name of former mayor of Gishyita (Kibuye prefecture) Charles Sikubwabo who is still on the run. Nigerian prosecutor Charles Philips said that if Sikubwabo is still on the run as trial approaches, his team will ask for his severance and proceed with the trial. On Thursday, the prosecution made an oral request to lead the case on the basis of the two indictments. The court had earlier rejected a request to merge them, after the defense argued against. "It was a mistake to have two indictments," Philips told Hirondelle. "It gives the impression that they are separate events when they are not, because the indictment itself clearly states that those who survived the Mugonero attack fled to Bisesero. " He said that while this prosecution team had tried to rectify the mistake of its predecessors, it would not be a big problem to proceed on the basis of the two indictments. Elizaphan Ntakirutimana is defended by former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark and Gérard by another prominent American lawyer, Edward Medvene. Gérard Ntakirutimana was arrested in Côte d'Ivoire on October 1996 and transferred to the ICTR prison in Arusha, Tanzania, the following month. His father was first arrested in the US in September 1996, released and re-arrested in February 1998. After a long court battle against transfer, he was finally sent to Arusha on March 24th this year. JC/FH (NK%1102e)