Arusha, July 15, 2003 (FH) – A new trial involving the former mayor of Rusumo commune in the eastern Rwandan region of Kibungo, Silvestre Gacumbitsi, will begin on 28th July, 2003 at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Gacumbitsi, 56, is charged with five counts including genocide or, alternatively, complicity in genocide, extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity.

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According to the prosecutor, the accused organized the campaign against Tutsi civilians in his commune, including holding meetings and distributing arms to Interahamwe to kill Tutsis. Between April 15 and 17, 1994, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi led an attack against Nyarubuye parish where many Tutsi and Hutus had taken refuge”, reads the indictment in part. An estimated 20,000 thousand people were killed in Nyarubuye, one of the country's major genocide sites, where the Rwandan government intends to build a memorial. The indictment continues that “he killed persons by his own hand, ordered killings by subordinates, and led attacks under circumstances where he knew, or should have known, that civilians were, or would be, killed by persons under his authority. ” During his initial appearance June 26th, 2001, Gacumbitsi pleaded not guilty to all charges. The accused was also a member of the former single party MRND of the late president Juvénal Habyarimana, whose death on April 6th, 1994, sparked off the genocide. After the genocide, the accused fled to Mukugwa refugee camp in Kigoma, western Tanzania where he worked as a teacher until he was arrested on 20th of June, 2001. Gacumbitsi was arrested along with former mayor of Rukara commune (also in Kibungo region) Jean Mpambara and was transferred to the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha the next day. Six trials involving 18 accused, are currently talking place at the ICTR. Among them are senior army officers of the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) and former government ministers. Also in custody are 9 other former mayors that include Laurent Semanza, former mayor of Bicumbi who was found guilty of genocide May 15, 2003 and sentenced to 24 and a half years in prison. The first person to be condemned and sentenced by the tribunal was Jean Paul Akayesu, former mayor of Taba (Gitarama province, central Rwanda). He is currently serving a life sentence in Mali. Another Mayor, Ignace Bagilishema of Mabanza (Kibuye, western Rwanda), was acquitted on July 3, 2002. There are currently four trials concerning former mayors going on at the ICTR. Gacumbitsi's defence counsel is Kouengoua, assisted by Anne Ngantio Nbattang, both from Cameroon. The prosecution team will be led by Richard Karegesya from Uganda and Andra Mobberly from New Zealand. The trial will take place in the newly reconstituted Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR. Sources within the ICTR point out that it might be composed of Judges George Lloyd Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis,Andrésie Vaz from Senegal and Khalida Rashid Khan from Pakistan who was appointed on July 7 by the Secretary General of the United Nations. SV/CE/FH (0711e)