Arusha, March 13, 2001(FH) The trial of former Rwandan mayor Juvénal Kajelijeli formally opened Tuesday before Trial Chamber Two of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). In an opening statement, the prosecution told the court it planned to bring fifteen witnesses "over a short period of time" to back eleven genocide-related charges against the accused.

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"This case is about three horrifying days in Ruhengeri, northern Rwanda, which was the stronghold of President Habyarimana," prosecutor Ken Fleming told the court. "The presidential ’plane was shot down on the evening of April 6th, 1994. On April 7th there began a series of massacres early in the morning […] Our evidence will include that very early in the morning, a group was formed by the accused, within perhaps 10 hours of the shooting down of the ’plane. […] He gathered together a group of young men, the Interahamwe, which was the youth wing of the presidential party MRND. He took them back to his home and said ’go and kill, exterminate the Tutsis’. "Fleming described the genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus that followed Habyarimana’s death as "one of the most barbaric episodes in the history of modern man". He said the prosecution would bring evidence to show how Kajelijeli played a leading role in the massacres in his Mukingo commune (Ruhengeri prefecture) and neighbouring areas. After rounding up the Interahmwe in the early morning of April 7th, Fleming said, Kajelijeli "then went out in his red pickup truck, which was seen bymany witnesses" and supervised a massacre at the homes of two Tutsi families. "Eighty people lived there and two survived," Fleming told the court. "We have witnesses from outside and inside the house, the two survivors. We have witnesses who participated in the killing and have confessed. They saw the accused drive up. They [the Tutsis] were rounded up like sheep. When they were gathered in one place at one time, with no weapons, the cowardly killing commenced. " Fleming said the killers used "kalashnikovs, grenades, cudgels with nails, and anything else they could lay their hands on to kill". The accused is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, direct and public incitement to genocide, serious violations of the Geneva Conventions (war crimes) and crimes against humanity, including murder, rape and torture. Fleming alleged that Kajelijeli had "specific intention to kill" because he told Interahamwe to go and kill Tutsis, because there was an explosion of violence in his area in the days following the ’plane crash, and because "the accused was able to mobilize about 600 uniformed, trained and armed men to go on a killing spree". He said prosecution witnesses would testify that the Interahamwe would sing "let’s exterminate them, let’s exterminate them", and that this was also proof of intent to kill Tutsis. On the conspiracy charge, Fleming said the prosecution would prove beyond reasonable doubt that Kajelijeli was the "right-hand man" of Joseph Nzirorera, Secretary-General of the MRND, and that Kajelijeli conspired with Nzirorera and others to commit genocide. "In fact, we will lead evidence that if you wished to have an interview with Nzirorera, you had to go through Kajelijeli to get there," he told the court. "Rape appears in a couple of different places in the indictment," prosecutor Fleming continued. "We are also concerned with crimes against humanity, which is to do with human suffering. That can relate not only to people who underwent physical violence themselves, but also mental anguish watching things happen. "The prosecutor said, for example, one mother had testified that she and her children were hiding from the Interahamwe when she heard Kajelijeli order the militiamen to "search for the girls, rape them and kill them afterwards". He said she would testify that she saw her fifteen-year-old daughter being raped by Interahamwe. Fleming quoted the mother as having testified that "when they were raping my daughter, she cried out for help. Maybe that is why the other group [of Interhamwe] found us". The prosecutor also told the court that "there will be other evidence of rape and the inhuman suffering some of these people witnessed". After this opening statement, the court heard testimony from a prosecution investigator appearing as an expert witness. However, cross-examination was then postponed to Wednesday, as defence counsel Lennox Hinds of the US said he needed more time to prepare. He had earlier complained that documents and photographs presented by the witness were given to him at the last moment. Kajelijeli’s trial was originally scheduled to open in January this year, but was postponed to March 12th following a defence request for more time to prepare the case, and a prosecution motion to amend the indictment. Trial Chamber Two sat Monday for the start of trial but first had to hear and decide on a defence motion challenging the jurisdiction of the ICTR to try the accused. This was rejected. Last January, defence counsel Hinds said he was not ready for trial because his bilingual co-counsel was tied up on another case and he himself needed time to sort out problems at his US law firm. He told the court the defence team would not be ready until July. Many observers expect the trial to be suspended shortly, until at least June. Trial Chamber Two has not conducted a trial for nearly two years, although it has heard pre-trial motions for pending cases. The Chamber is composed of judges Laity Kama of Senegal (presiding), William Sekule of Tanzania and Mehmet Güney of Turkey. JC/PHD/FH (KJ_0313e)