Arusha, September 18, 2001 (FH) - As a seventh trial on Tuesday opened at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Prosecutor presented a chilling picture of how a clergyman and his doctor son allegedly delivered thousands to their deaths during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Seventh Day Adventist Pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son Gerard are charged with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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"The Ntakirutimanas will have you believe that in times of danger, they opened up their church and hospital as a sanctuary for Tutsi under attack," prosecutor Charles Phillips of Nigeria told the court. "But the testimony of the witnesses you will hear describes them, rather, as predators, who delivered thousands to their deaths and actually committed murders themselves. Elizaphan and Gerard Ntakirutimana were not helpless witnesses of genocide, rather, they were participants with blood on their hands. "Prosecution alleged that Elizaphan allowed Tutsi clergy and parishioners to be murdered as they prayed in church, while Gerard denied medical treatment, food and water to Tutsi refugees whom he crammed into a basement. Dressed in dark jackets, white shirts and ties, the grey-haired pastor and his bespectacled son showed little emotion as they sat flanked by their lawyers. They have pleaded not guilty. Elizaphan is defended by former US Attorney General Ramsay Clark, and Gerard by Edward Medvene, also of the US. At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Mugonero complex in Kibuye, western Rwanda. Gérard was a doctor at the infirmary, which lay in the same complex. At the beginning of the genocide Elizaphan allegedly lured refugees to the church and hospital with the promise of safety. According to the ICTR Prosecutor, Gérard then separated Hutus from Tutsis and told the Tutsis to stay. On April 16th, 1994, a large convoy of attackers came to Mugonero and massacred hundreds of the refugees. Elizaphan and Gérard are said to have been part of the convoy. "Both Elizaphan and Gerard Ntakirutimana had arrived at the complex shortly before the attacks, with gendarmes, Interahamwe (Hutu militia) and other civilians armed to the teeth and ready to fight," Philips said. "Together they inflicted unimaginable pain in a slaughter, which lasted well into the night. "Dressed in his customary suit and tie, Pastor Ntakirutimana watched as people were shot or beaten to death, encouraging the killers to ensure that no one survived. His son, Gerard Ntakirutimana, took a more active role in the attacks. "Philips said a prosecution witness would testify to Gérard's presence during the rape of three women inside Mugonero hospital on April 16th, and that two witnesses saw him kill the hospital accountant. He described the pastor as a prominent member of the community with considerable means, saying witnesses were "aware of Elizaphan Ntakirutimana's closeness and friendship with government officials and wealthy businessman who were responsible for the killings already taking place in Kibuye". About 5,000 people were killed in Mugonero complex on April 16th, 1994, according to the prosecution. This included at least 50 Adventist pastors killed together with their families. Seven Tutsi pastors who had got wind of the upcoming attack wrote an appeal to Pastor Ntakirutimana the previous day. A line from this letter, "We wish to inform you that we have heard tomorrow we will be killed with our families", was used by American journalist Philip Gourevitch as the title of a book about Rwanda. "Pastor Ntakirutimana's response was contained in a brief, heartless letter," said Philips, "which stated 'there's nothing I can do for you. All you can do is prepare to die because your time has come', or words to that effect. "Church involvement"The church hierarchies were at best useless and at worst accomplices in the genocide," Philips told the court. "This must be seen in the context of a long history of political compromise. The church went hand in hand with the politics of Habyarimana (former Hutu president whose death on April 6th, 1994, sparked the genocide). "Inside Rwanda, more than 90% of the population were baptized Christians (65% Catholics, 20% Protestant and about 5% Adventist)," Philips continued. "Except for the government itself, the Catholic Church was the most influential and powerful institution in Rwanda right up to the office of the President. "The failure of the churches in Rwanda to take a collective stand against the genocide and the overwhelming evidence of the direct participation of many clergy is one of the most disturbing aspects of what is universally considered to have been among the worst crimes against humanity in the 20th century. "Elizaphan, now aged 77, is one of a number of clergymen to have been indicted by the ICTR for their alleged role in the genocide. He is the first to go on trial but, according to Tribunal spokesman Kingsley Moghalu, "by no means the last". Also in custody is Anglican bishop Samuel Musabyimana, while a former catholic military chaplain was arrested in Switzerland in July at the Tribunal's request, and a catholic priest is wanted in Italy. The joint trial of the Ntakirutimanas brings to seven the number of trials alternating before the ICTR's three trial chambers, and to seventeen the number of accused persons on trial. Philips said the Prosecutor intends to call 21 protected witnesses in this case, plus two investigators and one expert witness. The expert will be Canadian journalist Hugh McCullum. Philips said he expected that the prosecution case could be completed "within 6-7 weeks". Defence lawyers are expected to make their opening statement later in the day. The first prosecution witness, ICTR investigator Upendra Bhagel of India, meanwhile began his testimony. The case is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of judges Erik Mose of Norway (presiding), Navanethem Pillay of South Africa and new judge Andrésia Vaz of Senegal. JC/PHD/FH (NK0918T)