Arusha, April, 17, 2001 (FH) - The trial of former Rwandan minister of higher education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda began on Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Kamuhanda is charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity including rape and murder.

1 min 29Approximate reading time

The prosecution says he played a key role in massacres of Tutsis in his home commune of Gikomero, central Rwanda, during the 1994 genocide. "We will be submitting that it was in part through the role of the accused that what happened in Rwanda did take place," prosecutor Ken Fleming of Australia told the court in an opening statement. "We shall establish his individual responsibility as well as his superior responsibility for what happened in Rwanda. "Kamuhanda was part of the Rwandan interim government in place during the genocide that left some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead between April and July, 1994. The accused was appointed minister, replacing Daniel Mbangura. , on May 24th when the genocide was already under way. "We know that terrible things happened in Rwanda," defence counsel Aisha Condé of Guinea Conakry told the court. "We are not here to question this. Our submission is: Mr. Kamuhanda was totally foreign to what happened in Rwanda. "Prosecution alleges that Kamuhanda participated in massacres that took place in Gikomero commune on April 12th, 1994. However, defence counsel Condé said she would prove that Kamuhanda was elsewhere on that particular date. She further said that "defence will demonstrate that he has never been an important member of MRND [the dominant political party in Rwanda at the time of the genocide], has never been advisor to the president and never adhered to extremist ideologies of the genocide". Defence says the indictment is wrong when it states that, before becoming a minister, Kamuhanda was an advisor to interim president Théodore Sindikubwabo. After the opening statements, prosecution presented a first witness, ICTR investigator Antonius Leucassen. The witness presented several maps, sketches and photographs of areas where the alleged crimes took place. Two protected witnesses then testified in closed session. Kamuhanda was arrested in the French town of Bourges on November 26th, 1999. He made his initial appearance before the ICTR on March 24th, 2000. The trial is being heard by Trial Chamber Two of the ICTR, composed of judges Laity Kama of Senegal (presiding), Mehmet Güney of Turkey and William Sekule of Tanzania. GG/JC/FH (KH0417e)