Arusha, May 31, 2002 (FH) - Arsène Shalom Ntahobali one of six people accused of genocide crimes in Butare (south of Rwanda) was a militia leader a prosecution witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), reports the independent news agency Hirondelle. The witness known only as "SJ" for protection of identity is a genocide survivor who had sought refuge in the Butare province in April 1994.

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The witness said there was an estimated five thousand Tutsi refugees where she sought shelter. SJ is the twelfth prosecution witness in the 'Butare Trial'. This trial groups former Minister for Family Affairs and Gender Issues Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, former Butare prefects Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo and former mayors of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi and Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje. According to the witness it was Ntahobali (whom she referred to as Shalom) who lead the militiamen because before they carried out an activity they would consult him first. SJ said the militia would ask the accused: "Head Shalom, what do we need to do?" and he would give them instructions. The witness stated that on three instances the accused accompanied by militia went to the office of the prefect to collect refugees who were driven to some woods in a place called Kabutare and killed. SJ told the court that when the militia asked what was to be done with the refugees the accused responded that they (militia) should have no pity. She expressed herself in a Kinyarwanda term "ntimujenjeke" which she said indicates have not pity. Witness SJ said that the refugees who were taken in a vehicle were tortured before they were killed. She added that they were subjected to atrocious treatment and thrown into the vehicle like objects, like sacks of beans. SJ said the refugees had nothing to eat or drink. According to SJ even a "white brother" who tried to assist them was harassed and treated like an accomplice of the Tutsis. This trial will continue on Monday before ICTR's Trial Chamber Two, composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho). SW/FH (BT-0531e)