Arusha, June 29, 2001 (FH) - Former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) defence investigator Siméon Nshamihigo on Friday pleaded not guilty before the Tribunal to three counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The accused answered in a calm voice as Judge Erik Mose of Norway asked for his plea.

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The counts against him are genocide or, alternatively, complicity in genocide; extermination or, in the alternative, murder as a crime against humanity; and violations of the Geneva Conventions (war crimes). Nshamihigo was deputy-prosecutor for the Cyangugu region of southwest Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide. Before his arrest on May 19th, he was working under a false name and Congolese passport as a defence investigator for Samuel Imanishimwe, former commander of Cyangugu military barracks. Imanishimwe is currently on trial before the ICTR with two other accused. "Siméon Nshamihigo organized and participated in the campaign against the Tutsi and the political opposition in the Cyangugu prefecture," says his indictment. "The campaign consisted of compiling lists of influential Tutsi and members of the political opposition; identifying persons to be killed on the basis of such lists; generally monitoring and restricting circulation of persons within Cyangugu prefecture to facilitate attacks on Tutsi and suspected political opponents; and supervising roadblocks and distributing weapons to militia at roadblocks to facilitate the killing of such persons". The Prosecutor says that the accused collaborated with political and military officials to "organize and supervise military training and weapons distribution to civilian militias" which subsequently participated in attacks against Tutsi refugees. During the month of April 1994, he also"supervised roadblocks throughout Cyangugu town, delivered weapons to men at roadblocks and ordered the men controlling the roadblocks to kill Tutsi passing through, at times providing the names of particular persons that should be killed", according to the prosecution. For example, Nsahmihigo is said to have ordered the killing of "a young student whom he characterized as a traitor and an accomplice of the Tutsi", sometime between April 13th and 15th, 1994. The Prosecutor says he also ordered the killing of "the accountant of the prefecture, a Tutsi that managed to obtain a Hutu identification card", of a wealthy Tutsi businessman named Karangwa, and of a priest. "Sometime during May 1994, Siméon Nshamihigo approached a roadblock in Kamembe and ordered those in control to kill an unnamed priest from the Catholic paroisse in Mibilizi that was expected to pass by," says the indictment. "The priest was killed later that same day at the roadblock at the entrance to Kamembe. "The prosecution says that the accused committed his crimes "in concert with administrative and military officials in Cyangugu prefecture, including Cyangugu préfet Emmanuel Bagambiki and Cyangugu Camp Commander Samuel Imanishimwe". Nshamihigo was represented in court by a Tanzanian duty counsel, Jesse Kiritta, who complained that the accused's rights had been violated because he was kept in provisional detention for more than 30 days before this initial appearance. However Judge Mose, sitting alone on the bench, foundthat the accused had been informed of the charges against him within the necessary time frame. Tribunal Rules stipulate that a suspect can be kept in provisional detention for 30 days, provided there is an order from a judge. This can be extended for two further periods of 30 days, but only with a judge's approval. BN/JC/MBR/FH (NG0629E)