Arusha, November 27, 2003 (FH) – The International Criminal Tribunal forRwanda (ICTR), on Thursday began hearing the trial of four “pillars” of the1994 Rwandan interim government. The interim government was in place during the 1994 genocide and massacresof Tutsis and Hutu members of the opposition that claimed the lives of anestimated one million people.

2 min 35Approximate reading time

The trial groups together the president of the former ruling party, theMRND, Matthieu Ngirumpatse, his vice president Edouard Karemera, thesecretary general, Joseph Nzirorera, as well as the former minister ofprimary and secondary education, André Rwamakuba. Karemera was also the minister of Interior in 1994 while Joseph Nzirorerawas the president of the interim national assembly. Rwamakuba boycotted Thursday's session, protesting against what he termed as“manipulation” of his file by the prosecutor. The chamber ruled thatRwamakuba was free to attend his trial any time. “The four men before you were the pillars of the interim government, eventhough two of them did not occupy any cabinet posts”, declared therepresentative of the prosecutor, the Jamaican-American, Don Webster. He pointed out that the main aim of the government they had supported wasgenocide. “These four men campaigned for and promoted genocide vigorously all over thecountry”, said Webster, adding that the accused “modelled poor Rwandans intoan army of beasts and killers”. The prosecutor also accused them of having recruited, trained and armed theInterahamwe militia “the levers of the killing machine in Rwanda”, he said. Webster added that the Rwandan genocide was not spontaneous but an“orchestrated irrational savage violence that was deliberately planned”. Theprosecutor concluded that the four men were guilty of genocide. The prosecutor asserted that the principle reasons for the genocide were therefusal to share power with the opposition. “The objective was to destroythe Tutsis and hang on to power. They could not do either without the other”. Webster continued that even though the accused were the “cream of the cream”, and“éminences grises of the Rwandan society”, he called them “beasts, thesame as Interahamwe who made Rwandan descend into hell”. Besides the crimes of conspiracy, each accused faces separate individualcharges. He implicates Nzirorera and Karemera in massacres and rapes thatoccurred in their home regions of Ruhengeri (northwest) and Kibuye (west),Rwamakuba is implicated in Butare (south) and Ngirumpatse in thecapital,Kigali. Webster called Ngirumpatse a “war criminal”, and accused Rwamakuba of movingfrom one house to another in search of Tutsis who were later handed toInterahamwe to be killed at roadblocks. “He moved around with an axe hangingon his belt instead of having a stethoscope, thermometer or any othermedical instrument”, said the prosecutor. According to Webster, Ngirumpatse was the instrument of the genocide,Nzirorera perfected it, Karemera oiled it while Rwamakuba improved it. When Don Webster was through with his presentation, Didier Skornicki, thedefence counsel for Edouard Karemera, made an opening statement on behalf ofall the defence teams. He urged the court to approach the case in a mannerdifferent from that of the prosecutor and the press. Skornicki declared that the interim government had limited means but that ittried its level best to stop the massacres, in particular seeking help fromthe international community. “These are men who solemnly appealed for international aide to stop thegenocide. Now they are being accused of having orchestrated it”, declaredSkornicki. The French counsel continued that they were dealing with people “ofgoodwill, who would prove, one after the other, their innocence and wouldnot hesitate to enter into the annals of the small country's history toanswer to this game of words”. Joseph Nzirorera's counsel, Peter Robinson from the USA, also addressed thechamber. “Nzirorera is not guilty of the crimes he is accused of”, declaredRobison. He then accused the Rwandan government of not cooperating with thedefence. Nzirorera and his co-accused are each charged with seven counts of genocide,conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commitgenocide, and crimes against humanity (rape and extermination). The firstprosecution witness will be heard on Thursday afternoon. Their trial will be conducted in trial Chamber Three of the ICTR that willbe composed of Andrésia Vaz from Senegal (presiding), assisted by two adlitem (not permanent) judges: Flavia Lattanzi from Italy and Florence RitaArrey from Cameroon. KN/AT/CE/FH (GVI'1127e)