Arusha, November 15, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan politician Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza was a member of a "death squad" set up to kill Tutsis, genocide convict Omar Serushago told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday. Serushago is a former leader of the Interahamwe Hutu militia in Gisenyi, northwest Rwanda.

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He was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 1999, after pleading guilty to genocide before the ICTR. Serushago is testifying against three people linked to media which incited Hutus to kill Tutsis during the genocide that took place between April and July 1994 in Rwanda. They are: founder and alleged former director of Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) Ferdinand Nahimana; former Kangura newspaper editor Hassan Ngeze; and Barayagwiza, who was a policy advisor to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and an RTLM board member. As well as being leader of the hardline Hutu CDR political party, Serushago said Barayagwiza was also a member of a death squad set up to kill Tutsi intellectuals and richTutsis. He said the death squad was set up in 1990 (when the pro-Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front invaded Rwanda) and continued activities through to 1994. The witness claimed Barayagwiza was also close to the immediate circle of former president Juvénal Habyarimana and his wife, known as the "Akazu". The witness said Barayagwiza was financing groups of young people and "everyone in the country knew these young people were killing Tutsis". He gave the names of two such young people, whom he described as taxi drivers, saying that he had often been with them in Gisenyi. Serushago also said he had a sister who worked for Barayagwiza's party in Kigali and who revealed certain CDR secrets to him. The ICTR convict told the court he had attended many meetings of the death squad, but remembered two in particular, which were also attended by Barayagwiza, in late 1993 and early 1994. He also said the accused had sent a fax in early 1994 calling on the youth wings of the CDR (Impuzamugambi) and of the former presidential party MRND (Interhamwe) in Gisenyi to hunt down and kill Tutsis. He said the fax was sent just after the death of CDR president Martin Bucyana, who was assassinated in February 1994. Barayagwiza was appointed CDR president after Bucyana's death, according to Serushago. Still according to the witness, the fax said: "Now that the Inyenzi (Tutsis) have killed the president of the CDR, all Hutus are asked to be vigilant, to hunt out Tutsis wherever they are and wherever they are hiding. Even if they are in the churches, they must be pursued and killed. ""The reaction was immediate," Serushago told the court, meaning that killing of Tutsis began straight away. Serushago also told the court that the accused Hassan Ngeze drove around Gisenyi town in his car, telling people that "the Tutsis are finished". The witness said Ngeze had mounted a megaphone on the car, a Toyota Hilux. Serushago said Ngeze published lists of Tutsis to be killed in his Kangura newspaper. He told the court he had often seen Barayagwiza and Ngeze together in meetings of the CDR in Gisenyi in 1992 and 1993. Ngeze was present in court. Barayagwiza has been boycotting the trial since it began in October 2000, saying that the ICTR is manipulated by the current pro-Tutsi government in Kigali. JC/AT/DO/FH (ME1215e)