Arusha, August 18, 2003 (FH) - A prosecution witness on Monday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the former Mayor of Rusumo (Kibungo province, eastern Rwanda), Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, ordered Hutus to start killing Tutsis during the 1994 genocide. Gacumbitsi, 56, is charged with five counts of genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacres and rape of Tutsis committed in his commune in April 1994.

1 min 19Approximate reading time

The witness, who was only identified as TBIto protect his identity, told the court during examination in chief by prosecuting counsel Andra Mobberly, that the mayor ordered about forty people "to start killing Tutsis and slaughtering their cows. The court was informed by TBI that the mayor also ordered that no Hutu should help Tutsis to cross the river Kagera. The witness said that the former mayor gave instructions to one person to supervise and deliver the order. It was not a secret because the mayor gave the instructions to that individual openlysaid the witness. The prosecution witness told the court that, "in subsequent days the instructions were followed where Hutus continued to massacre Tutsis and loot their property, setting fire to their houses as well as slaughtering their cows. Earlier during his testimony, the witness explained to the court that before the genocide, the people in Rusumo lived in peace, drinking banana wine, beer with all ethnic groups with nothing bad happening. However after the prosecutor asked him to explain what happened after the arrival of Gacumbits, he said the genocide suspect "ordered Hutus to kill Tutsiscausing many to try and flee the area". The prosecution maintains that in June 1994, the accused had personally participated and ordered the killing of over twenty thousand people at the Nyarubuye parish in Rusumo, one of the worst genocide sites throughout Rwanda. Sylvestre Gacumbitsi was arrested in Tanzania in June 2001 and he is defended by Kouengoua and Anne Mbattang. Both are from Cameroon. The trial is being heard by Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of Judge Andrésia Vaz from Senegal (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. SV/FH(GA'0818E)