Arusha, October 16, 2003 (FH) -Two trials involving the last batch of former cabinet ministers in the 1994 interim government of Rwanda and high ranking government officials are set to begin at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on November 3rd. The trials dubbed Government I and Government II will start on the same day before Trial Chambers Two and Three of the ICTR.

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All the eight accused in the two trials were either former cabinet ministers under Habyarimana's rule, or during the interim government put in place in April 1994 in Rwanda and that presided over the genocide of one million ethnic Tutsis and members of the opposition, according to an official census. The suspects in Government I are former cabinet ministers Edouard Karemera, minister of Interior, André Rwamakuba, minister for Primary and Secondary Education and a member of the MDR party (Mouvement Démocratique Républicain), Mathieu Ngirumpatse, former president of the MRND (Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour le Développement) as well as minister of Justice, and Joseph Nzirorera the former secretary general of the MRND, minister of public works and later to become the speaker of the interim national assembly. They have pleaded not guilty to eleven charges of conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity during their initial appearance, on April 8th, 1999. The former cabinet ministers in Government II are the former minister of Health, Casimir Bizimungu, the former minister of Foreign Affairs Jérôme Bicamumpaka, that of Commerce, Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza, former minister of Public Service. They are charged with a total of ten counts including genocide, complicity in genocide, incitement to genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to genocide, and crimes against humanity. They too have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Three of them made their initial appearance on August 17th, 1999, while Bizimungu appeared before the ICTR for the first time on September 3rd, 1999. The two cases are seen as very important due to the prominent position of the accused either under President Juvenal Habyarimana's regime or while they were cabinet members in the interim government. According to the prosecution, from late 1990 to July 1994, these senior government officials hatched a plan to exterminate the Tutsi population and eliminate members of the opposition so that they would remain in power. They executed the said plan by organising, ordering and participating in the massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutu, the accusation maintains. The composition of the two chambers which will hear the cases is yet to be announced. The commencement of these trials has been awaited for long. The suspects were arrested between 1998 and 1999. In 2000 the prosecution presented a motion seeking to have all former cabinet ministers and politicians detained at the UNDF at the time, tried jointly but their request was rejected. The court ruled that the prosecutor's strategy could impinge on the rights of individual accused to a fair trial and was not in the interest of justice. Among those who were granted a separate trial are former Mukingo Mayor Juvenal Kajelijeli, former Minister for Higher Education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, and Former Minister for Information Eliezer Niyitegeka. Niyitegeka's judgment was rendered in May this year while Kajelijeli's and Kamuhanda's are expected before the end of the year. November will be a busy month at the ICTR. Apart from the beginning of the two Government trials, the Military I trial and that of former minister of Finance, Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, will also resume. Now that the two government trials are set to begin, only one major joint trial, Military II, will remain. PJ/CE/FH (GV'1016e)