Arusha, September 17, 2001 (FH) A Seventh Day Adventist pastor and his son are on Tuesday expected to go on trial for genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son Gérard, a medical doctor, are accused of using their positions to help massacre Tutsis in the Kibuye region of western Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

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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 will bring to seven the number of trials alternating before the ICTR's three trial chambers, and to seventeen the number of accused persons on trial. Gérard was arrested in Côte d'Ivoire in October 1996 and transferred to Tribunal custody the following month. His father was arrested in Texas, US, also in September 1996 but then ensued a long legal battle against extradition, led by Elizaphan's lawyer, former US Attorney General Ramsay Clark. The pastor was released fourteen months later, but the US State Department petitioned the release and he was re-arrested in February 1998. It was not until March 2000 that Elizaphan joined his son in the UN Detention Facility (UNDF) in Arusha, after Clark had taken the case to the US Supreme Court and lost. At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Mugonero complex in Kibuye. 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. The indictment says that survivors of the Mugonero massacre fled to surrounding places in the mountainous Bisesero region but were subsequently hunted down and killed by people including the Ntakirutimanas. Elizaphan allegedly went to a church in Murambi where many Tutsi refugees were hiding and ordered that the roof be destroyed. Elizaphan and Gérard face five counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions (war crimes). ICTR Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland is expected to be in court for the start of trial, which will be preceded by a status conference on Monday. 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 (NK0917E)