Arusha, October 22, 2001 (FH) - The genocide trial of six accused, including a mother and son, restarted on Monday before the UN's International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Not only is it the biggest joint trial currently before the ICTR, but the accused Pauline Nyiramasuhuko is the first woman to be charged with genocide before an international court and the first to be charged with rape.

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All six accused are charged with committing genocide in the Butare region of southern Rwanda in 1994. Nyiramasuhuko was Minister of Women's Development at the time of the 1994 genocide which left some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead. She is being tried jointly with her son and alleged former militia leader Arsène Ntahobali, former mayor of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Muganza Elie Ndayambaje and two former prefects of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo. The trial started on June 12th this year, but adjourned on June 27th after the hearing of only one prosecution witness, a Tribunal investigator. This case is alternating with two others before the ICTR's Trial Chamber Two, composed of judges William Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho and Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar. A woman without feeling?At the start of trial, lead prosecuting attorney Silvana Arbia of Italy described former minister Nyiramasuhuko as a "woman who had lost all feelings, because she applauded while the cruellest rapes were carried out in her presence, in the most inhuman circumstances". Arbia told the court that Pauline "even encouraged her son to do the same". She is charged with rape as well as genocide for allegedly using her position of influence to incite sexual violence against Tutsi girls and women. In its first judgement in September 1998, against former mayor of Taba Jean-Paul Akayesu, the ICTR became the first international court to recognize rape as a component of genocide. Akayesu was sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide, rape and other crimes against humanity. His sentence was confirmed on appeal on June 1st this year. In her opening statement, prosecutor Arbia said witnesses would testify that Nyiramasuhuko wore a military uniform during the massacres, to enhance her image as a "militant" minister. Nyiramasuhuko was a minister in the government of former president Juvénal Habyarimana and later maintained the same post in the interim government of Théodore Sindikubwabo. The interim government was installed just after Habyarimana's death on April 6th, 1994, sparked the genocide. It remained in place until July that year, when the pro-Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) won a military victory, and the interim government fled into exile. Both Nyiramasuhuko and her son were arrested in Kenya, on 18th and 24th July, 1997, respectively. "Correcting the time lag"Arbia said that Butare remained peaceful up to April 19th, 1994, even after killings had started in other parts of the country. This, she said, was owing to the charismatic leadership of the late former prefect Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana (no relation to former president Juvénal Habyarimana). But Arbia said the genocide planners "set to work to correct the time lag". From April 19th, she told the court, the six accused set to work inciting the population against the minority Tutsis and Hutu opponents of the regime. "The first (victim) was the most charismatic - the prefect himself (Habyarimana)," the prosecutor told the court. Prosecutor Arbia said that once Nsabimana replaced Habyarimana on the 19th, things deteriorated. On April 20th, she continued, the new prefect called a meeting of all mayors in the area to organize the start of "work" (term used to mean killing Tutsis). Arbia told the court that Rwanda's organized administrative structure made it easier to implement the extermination plan. This existing system of control "was adequately exploited" by the planners, she said, to ensure that the killings were carried out. SW/JC/PHD/FH (BT1022e)