Arusha, October 7, 2003 (FH) – Two defense witnesses in the Gacumbitsi trial told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday that they never saw nor heard Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, former mayor of Rusumo, giving orders to kill, loot or rape. Gacumbitsi, 56, is charged with five counts which include genocide or in the alternative complicity in genocide, extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity in relation with massacres of Tutsis perpetrated in several locations in his commune during the 1994 genocide.

2 min 6Approximate reading time

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. In response to a question asked by judge Egorov regarding the role of Gacumbitsi and other government officials at the time of the genocide, witness UHT stated that “the mayor tried to teach us to live in peace and harmony, he never convened any meetings to order people to kill one another, our official is innocent”. UHT is the third defence witness. UMT, the second witness of the day, testified along the same line, saying during chief examination by Gacumbitsi's co-counsel, Anne Mbattang from Cameroon, that he “never heard Gacumbitsi give orders to encourage Hutus tokill Tutsis” He added that the former mayor assisted some Tutsis by sheltering them in his house. Asked by the lead counsel, Kouengoua from Cameroon, about the Nyarabuye parish massacres, UHT said that that the communal vehicle arrived at the parish on April, 16th, but that Gacumbitsi was not on board this vehicle. The prosecutor accuses Gacumbitsi of being responsible for the biggest massacre that took place in Nyarabuye, which left about 20,000 people dead. Part of the indictment states “On the 15th of April, 1994, Gacumbitsi ordered and participated himself in the massacre of Nyarabuye. “He came back on the 16th and the 17th to supervise the killings which he executed with efficiency the plan of exterminating Tutsis,”«None of the three persons on board the vehicle weighed more than 60 kilos», the witness indicated, underlining that the former mayor was much heavier than that. He then added that he saw different perpetrators at the parish on the morning of 16th of April 1994. “I saw people dressed in vitenge, banana leaves and soldiers, “finishing off” people from both ethnic groups using machetes, clubs and traditional weapons” he said. UMT, for his part, stated that he never heard about the accused ordering the Tutsis not to cross river Akagera to seek refuge in Tanzania. The accusation maintains that the former mayor demanded in a public meeting that no Tutsi be allowed to escape by crossing the river. UMT also talked about the massacres in his area, saying they were perpetrated by «delinquents, [who] killed and looted both Hutus and Tutsis. They were armed with spears, machetes and clubs. » « I don't know whether the authorities were informed of these massacres », the witness added, saying he did not see Gacumbitsi during this period. « I only saw him again in the refugee camps in Tanzania », he indicated. The prosecutor did not cross-examine UHT. The trial was adjourned at the end of the morning session due to the illness of the next witness. It will continue on Wednesday with the testimony of the fifth defense witness. It is before Trial Chamber Three, which is presided over by Senegalese judge and ICTR vice-president Andresia Vaz, assisted by Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji and Serguei Aleckseivich Egorov from Russia. SV/CE/FH (GA0710e)