Arusha, July 4, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor and genocide suspect Juvénal Kajelijeli was a "side kick and a man the prosecution had not issued a warrant of arrest for," his defence lawyer maintained in an opening statement to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday. Defence counsel Lennox Hinds of the US told the ICTR’s Trial Chamber Two that Kajelijeli had been arrested just because he happened to be in the house of a suspect for whom a warrant had been issued.

1 min 50Approximate reading time

He was referring to another ICTR detainee, former President of the National Assembly in Rwanda, Joseph Nzirorera. Hinds was speaking as the trial of the former mayor finally restarted before the recomposed court, after being postponed twice on Monday and Tuesday. At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Kajelijeli was mayor of Mukingo, in the northwest Rwandan prefecture of Ruhengeri. He is charged with eleven counts including genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions (war crimes). Hinds told the court that Kajelijeli was mayor for only three weeks during the 1994 events and that the prosecution had alleged his guilt by association. He added that Kajelijeli fled the country, as did other refugees, to the Congo, Congo Brazzaville and finally to Benin. "A set of unfortunate circumstances evolved that led us to this place (the Tribunal)," said Hinds. The lawyer told the court that Kajelijeli was living in the house of a friend, Nzirorera, and when Nzirorera was being arrested, his client was arrested too. "Prosecution admits they had no warrant, they didn't even know who he was. Guilt by association is not the standard of this Tribunal,” said Hinds, “Being in the home of a suspect at the time of his arrest is not the standard. "Hinds claimed that after arresting Kajelijeli, the prosecution had to find a reason to hold him and that is why none of the witnesses had been interviewed before Kajelijeli's arrest. He stressed that none of the 15 prosecution witnesses scheduled to testify made any statements before Kajelijeli's arrest in 1998. All statements were made at least 30 days after his arrest, said Hinds. "It is apparently clear that prosecution had no information on him except for what they had when they swept across Africa making arrests of suspects," said Hinds. "He was at the wrong place at the wrong time," he added. "We are all of us involved in a whole new area of jurisprudence and the whole world is watching us. We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us," said Hinds. "To pass this defendant a poison chalice is to put it on our lips. ""Prosecution misled authorities in Benin, misled the Trial Chamber and passed Kajelijeli the poison chalice," Hinds told the court. SW/JC/MBR/FH (KJ0704f)