Arusha, March 1, 2004 (FH) – The former mayor of Rusumo commune, (Kibungo Prefecture, Eastern Rwanda) Sylvestre Gacumbitsi whose trial is being heard at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday provided information alleging that he was innocent. Gacumbitsi 57, is charged with five counts related to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

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They include genocide or in the alternative, complicity in genocide, extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity. The accused had been allowed by the judge to address the court during the closing arguments of his trial. He narrated the same things that he had said when he was testifying on his own behalf. He said he held the position of Mayor since 1983. During that time “I never pursued criminal segregation, that is why I remained in power for all those years,” he said. He continued that the advent of political parties caused the genocide. “With the advent of political parties the powers of the bourgmestredeclined. A bourgmestre was in charge of security and in 1994 there was security and peace in Rusumo until the situation changed later,” he said. Gacumbitsi also explained how he took action on wrongdoers. “I arrested those who started burning houses from the 10th to the 12th (April). My strong concern was to restore security so I kept them in custody,” he defended himself. The accused also repeated that he was persecuted because people thought he was an accomplice of the RPF. He added that the main reason why he evacuated Tutsis who had taken refuge in his house at Nyakarambe (Kigali) was because he feared they would be killed by extremists which targeted him. Prosecution witnesses accuse him of evacuating Tutsis tenants from his house on racial grounds. He concluded by stating that he never hurt anyone, and that even his family knew that he was, “incapable of killing a chicken,” adding that he was saddened when he was described as a criminal. The prosecution maintains that there were massacres of more than 20,000 people at Nyarubuye Parish on the 15th of April, 1994, carried out on the orders of the genocide suspect. Gacumbitsi was defended by Mr. Kouengoua assisted by Ms Anne Mbattang both of whom are from Cameroon, while the prosecutor in this trial was Mr. Richard Karegyesa of Uganda assisted by Ms. Andra Mobberly of New Zealand. During the closing arguments Mr. Karagyesa called for the accused to be imprisoned for the rest of his life while the defence called for the acquittal of their client. The tribunal expects to deliver the verdict in this trial in June 2004. The trial is before Trial Chamber Three, which is presided over by Senegalese judge Andresia Vaz, assisted by judges Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji and Serguei Aleckseivich Egorov from Russia. SV/CE/FH (GA'0301eee)