Arusha, October 10, 2001 (FH) - Prosecutors in the genocide trial of Seventh Day Adventist pastor Elizaphan Ntakirutimana and his son Gerald on Wednesday asked a court of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for judicial notice that genocide occurred in Rwanda in 1994. Prosecutor Charles Adeogun-Philips (Nigeria/Canada) suggested the court could draw on other ICTR cases where judges found there had been genocide in Rwanda, and in its western prefecture of Kibuye where the Ntakirutimanas lived.

1 min 34Approximate reading time

At the time of the genocide in Rwanda, Elizaphan was pastor of the Seventh Day Adventist church at Mugonero in Kibuye. His son Gerald was a doctor at the infirmary which lay in the same Adventist complex. The two are charged in connection with massacres of Tutsis at Mugonero and in the nearby hills of Bisesero, where many persecuted Tutsis fled. They have pleaded not guilty to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. American defence lawyers Ramsay Clark for Elizaphan and Edward Medvene for Gerald argued against the Prosecutor's request, saying prosecution wanted the court to draw conclusions based on procedures to which their clients had not been party. They said that to grant the request would be to destroy the presumption of innocence. Ramsey Clark said he recognized that there had been a "vast human tragedy" in Rwanda that had caused hundreds of thousands of deaths. However, he said he did not accept the notion that it was one genocide committed by people who were genetically programmed to kill. The lawyer said that to simplify things in such a way would be to commit an error against humanity. Presiding judge Erik Mose of Norway indicated it was in the court's power to hand down a judicial notice, especially on the points where the parties agreed. The judges will deliberate on the motion before making a decision. The case was adjourned for one week, to allow ICTR judges to attend a seminar in Dublin, Ireland, with their colleagues from the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Prosecution has brought ten witnesses against the Ntakirutimanas since their case began on September 17th. Some ten more prosecution witnesses are expected. The prosecutors' strategy in this case seems to differ from that of prosecution in the so-called Butare trial of six accused, also before the ICTR. At the start of the Butare case, prosecutor Silvana Arbia of Italy said it was up to prosecution in each case to prove that the alleged massacres constituted genocide. AT/JC/PHD/FH (NT1010E