Arusha, June 12, 2001 (FH) The trial of six Rwandan leaders accused of genocide crimes in the Butare region of southern Rwanda started Tuesday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), with an opening statement from the prosecution. Prosecution said the six were the protagonists who calculated and planned killings in Butare prefecture during the 1994 genocide.

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Italian prosecutor Silvana Arbia presented them as prominent personalities in positions of power. "We have before you the persons who were responsible for the tragedy in Butare," she told the judges. The Butare trial groups former Minister for Family and Women's Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, her son Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, former Butare prefects Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo and former mayors of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi and Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje. Arbia described former minister Nyiramasuhuko as a "Rwandan society woman who had lost all feelings, because she applauded while the cruellest rapes were carried out in her presence, in the most inhuman circumstances. Pauline even encouraged her son to do the same," Arbia told the court. Nyiramasuhuko has been charged with rape, as well as genocide and other crimes. Arbia said witnesses would also testify that Nyiramasuhuko wore a military uniform during the massacres. Of her son and co-accused Ntahobali, prosecution said that he played a crucial role of ensuring refugees were enclosed and did not escape. Arbia said many barriers, roadblocks and checkpoints were set up and that "Shalom (Ntahobali) played a crucial role in carrying out this sort of work, sorting people…even killing". Arbia said that Butare remained peaceful up to April 19th, 1994, even after killings had started in other parts of the country. This, she said, was owing to the charismatic leadership of the late former prefect Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana (no relation to former president Juvénal Habyarimana whose death on April 6th sparked the genocide). Arbia said the genocide planners "set to work to correct the time lag". "The first (victim) was the most charismatic - the prefect himself (Habyarimana)," the prosecutor told the court. Prosecutor Arbia said that once Nsabimana replaced Habyarimana on the 19th, things deteriorated. On April 20th, she continued, the new prefect called a meeting of all mayors in the area to organize the start of "work" (term used to mean killing Tutsis). Arbia told the court that Rwanda's organized administrative structure made it easier to implement the extermination plan. This existing system of control "was adequately exploited" by the planners, she said, to ensure that the killings were carried out. Prosecutor Arbia described Kanyabashi as the doyen of mayors, who had a reputation in the region for tolerance. "That fact was well exploited," Arbia continued, describing how many refugees came to Ngoma seeking protection, only to be massacred. She said that 26,000 people were killed in Ngoma commune alone during the April to July genocide. In the course of the trial, said Arbia, prosecution would prove that Kanyabashi played a major role in the organisation of massacres in his commune. Arbia accused Kanyabashi and ex-mayor of Muganza Ndayambaje of having exported their plan outside their communes, inciting massacres elsewhere in the region. Together, said Arbia, the two "moved to ensure maximum casualties". Arbia did not specifically mention Nteziryayo, who took over as prefect of Butare when Nsabimana was sacked in June 1994. Nteziryayo is accused of conspiring with the others to commit genocide in Butare region. The hearing continues Wednesday afternoon before Trial Chamber Two, composed of Judges William Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho. SW/JC/FH (BT0612e)