Arusha, August 7, 2003 (FH) - A prosecution witness Wednesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that she was raped by the former mayor of Rusumo (Kibungo province, eastern Rwanda), Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, during the genocide against Tutsis in 1994. Gacumbitsi, 56, is charged with five counts of genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre and rape of Tutsis committed in his commune in April 1994.

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The witness, a Tutsi woman code-named "TAP" to protect her identity, accused the former head of the commune of having personally raped her. She is the ninth prosecution witness. "He forcefully put his private parts into mine"recounted the witness amidst tears. "He raped me". The witness continued that before the actual rape, the accused had inserted a police truncheon into her private parts. She added that the truncheon measured about 40 cm. "I reached a point where I wished to die", said the witness who spoke through an interpreter. TAP explained that the rape took place at the home of Gacumbitsi's subordinate, Isaïe Karamage, the councillor of Nyarubuye sector. "I suffer a lot ever since and I have painful after-effects"complained the witness, adding that the events perturbed her menstrual cycles. The witness also told the court that prior to the rape by Gacumbitsi, she had also been the victim of sexual violence at the hands of three men who raped her and then thrust a stick into her private parts. Gacumbitsi's defence counsel, Kouengoua, immediately objected to the evidence arguing that it was not part of her original statement and that his party had not been made aware of if requested the chamber to reject it. Andra Mobberly, a member of the prosecution team retorted that the defence had been informed of the new developments a day before. After deliberations, the chamber decided to listen to the witness's testimony in full and "would later rule whether to take into consideration the evidence or not". Wednesday's hearing was on several occasions interrupted by witness TAP who requested short pauses during her testimony in order to recover from the memory of what she had passed through during the genocide. The prosecution had originally planned to call 22 protected witnesses but decided to strike off five from the list. The first witness to appear was BBC journalist, Fergal Keane, who, in June 1994, visited Nyarubuye parish in Rusumo, one of the worst genocide sites. Over 20,000 thousand people were killed at the parish. The witness also told the tribunal that he had also gone to Benaco refugee camp in western Tanzania to interview Gacumbitsi. "The survivors we met told us that Gacumbitsi was the principal instigator of the killings at Nyarubuye", revealed the journalist. Feargal Keane continued that when he had challenged the former mayor on the allegations, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi denied any involvements. "I was very surprised when Gacumbitsi described the Interahamwe militia as a cultural group who only sang and danced in praise of the party", said the witness, adding that it was a very different opinion from what the majority of Rwandans had. The ICTR regards the Interahamwe as the main spearhead of the genocide in Rwanda. Gacumbitsi allegedly took part in the killingsDuring his opening statement, the prosecutor in the case, Richard Keregyesa from Uganda, said that Gacumbitsi had ordered and personally taken part in the massacres at Nyarubuye parish. "He even slashed open the belly of a pregnant woman and stabbed to death the victim's mother-in-law", said Karegyesa, adding that he accused had efficiently accomplished the plan to exterminate Tutsis in Rusumo. Protected witness "TAK" revealed to the court that the accused had allegedly killed one of his subordinates called Augustin Kanyogote. The victim was an agricultural officer at commune Rusumo. Another protected witness code-named "TAO" said that his wife had been raped by the counsellor of Nyarubuye, Gacumbitsis subordinate. He added that he had also seen the accused personally hack an old man with a machete April 15 1994. The old man had allegedly come to the mayor to seek help. The next day, another witness, "TAS", told the tribunal that she had personally seen the former mayor throw a mother and her two children into a pit alive. She added that the victims were never seen again. More killings in refugee campsWhen troops of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) arrived in Rusumo at the end of April 1994, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi took refuge at Benaco Camp in Tanzania. Witness TAS, who was also a refugee, told the tribunal that the hunt for Tutsis went on in the camps. She told of a man who was killed at the instigation of Gacumbitsi. "I was looking for fire wood near a cemetery in Benaco when I saw a man being killed. Gacumbitsi was supervising the killing", recounted the witness. According to its statutes, the ICTR competent to judge all persons presumed to have carried out acts of genocide and other violations of international human rights law Rwanda during the period of 1994. It also has the mandate to try Rwandan nationals suspected to have committed the same crimes in neighbouring states. 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. Judge Reddy has not been present for the last two days because of health problems. The trial was adjourned until August 18, 2003 when more witnesses are expected to be heard. KN/ER/AT/FH(GA'0807E)