Arusha, March 1, 2004 (FH) – The defence counsel of the former mayor ofRusumo commune (Kibungo Prefecture, Eastern Rwanda) Sylvestre Gacumbitsiwhose trial is being heard at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda(ICTR) requested the chamber to aquit his client on Monday. Gacumbitsi 57, is charged with five counts related to the 1994 genocide inRwanda.

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They include genocide or in the alternative, complicity in genocide,extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity. Mr. Kouengoua (Cameroon) who is the lead defence counsel for Gacumbitsicompleted the defence's closing arguments by stating that “the prosecutorfailed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Gacumbitsi is guilty ofcomplicity in genocide, extermination, murder and rape as crimes againsthumanity. ” He added that “the request we make is for you to aquitGacumbitsi of the five counts. ”Earlier Gacumbitsi's co-counsel, Ms. Anne Mbattang also from Cameroon, alsosaid that “Gacumbitsi did not commit the crimes he is accused of by theprosecution”. According to the co-counsel, the former mayor could not have instigatedattacks against Tutsis because he was educated by Tutsis and completed hiseducation in the Nyarubuye Parish. “Gacumbitsi could not have been thecause of this evil experience in the commune,” she said. The prosecution maintains that there were massacres of more than 20,000people at Nyarubuye Parish on the 15th of April, 1994, carried out on theorders of the genocide suspect. Ms. Mbattang also blamed the prosecutor for providing a poorly preparedindictment. “The indictment is so vague you cannot use it without runningthe risk of rendering unfair justice,” she commented, continuing that “theindictment is a mere patchwork of events which the prosecutor findsdifficult to prove are specific to the accused. ”Gacumbitsi was defended several times as being innocent by his counsels. Onetime the co-cousel said, “You cannot expect a combination of confused eventsto be held against an innocent person”Ms. Mbattang then defended her witnesses telling the court that what theprosecutor had said of them earlier in the day was not true. Theprosecutor, Mr. Richard Karegyesa of Uganda had said that the defensewitnesses were “ignorant, evasive, inconsistent, distancing themselves fromthe crimes and that they denied the obvious”. The co-counsel went on to challenge the credibility of prosecutionwitnesses. She gave the example of a witness code-named RDR who testifiedthat he was among those trained by IBUKA to come and testify against theaccused. IBUKA is an organisation based in Rwanda which helps victims of the genocideovercome the problems they have faced since 1994. Mr. Kouengoua also challenged the expert witnesses brought by theprosecutor. “Alison Des Forges did not even know there was a sub-prefect inRusumo, so what did she come to do here?” he asked. He also reminded the court that the defence team had provided a report byforensic experts who proved that the footage taken by Feargal Keane, a BBCjournalist who filmed Nyarubuye, was taken at three different times and thebodies that were filmed and photographed were skeletons of many years back. Koeungoua concluded by saying, “I believe Gacumbitsi is the only personwhose family remained at the same place. They did not run away from Rwanda. I don't know how criminals behave but his children are still in Rusumo andno member of the family is hiding in any other country. ”The prosecutor had presented closing briefs earlier in the day. He requestedthat Gacumbitsi be “put away for the rest of his life”The prosecutor brought a total of 15 witnesses while the defense brought 21. The tribunal expects to deliver the verdict in this trial in June 2004. The trial is before Trial Chamber Three, which is presided over bySenegalese judge Andresia Vaz, assisted by judges Jai Ram Reddy from Fijiand Serguei Aleckseivich Egorov from Russia. SV/CE/FH (GA'0301ee)