Arusha, October 29th, 2002 (FH) - A defence witness testifying in the trial of genocide suspect Elièzer Niyitegeka on Tuesday, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that contrary to prosecution allegations, Tutsis in the east Rwanda hills of Bisesero were killed by bandits during the 1994 genocide. Prosecution witnesses have stated that Tutsis in the region were killed by the army and militias royal to the then ruling party, MRND.

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Niyitegeka, then minister of information is accused of having been one of the leaders of the massacres in Bisesero. The witness, only identified as 'TEN 8' to protect his identity from the public, testified that the killings of Tutsis were not motivated by ethnic bigotry but "security" and financial reasons. "Tustis were killed because the RPF (a predominantly Tutsis rebel movement) resumed hostilities after Habyarimana's death (then president killed in a plane crash on April 6th, 1994)", said the witness. "They were targeted because people knew that some parents had sent their children to join the RPF", he added. He also said that others had been targeted for their property. "These horrendous crimes were committed by robbers and brigands (…) young people, they were undisciplined young people. Some were tramps. I think this kind of people exists everywhere", said TEN 8. He denied that there had been any sort of organisation in the attacks on Tutsis. Under cross-examination by prosecutor Ken Fleming of Australia, TEN 8, who also testified about several events in favour of the defence case admitted that he hadn't personally seen most of those events and was relying on stories told by friends and other people. Like preceding defence witnesses, TEN 8 said that Niyitegeka had not been in the Bisesero region thoughout the entire period of the genocide. He further told the court that Niyitegeka had not been involved in any killings, rape, incitement to commit genocide or distribution of arms. The trial continues with the testimony of another protected witness, TEN 22. This case is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. Judge Pillay does not attend court this week due to commitments at the UN security council. ICTR rules provide for continuation of a trial before two judges in the absence of a judge from that chamber. GG/CE/FH(NI-1029e)