Arusha, February 16, 2003 (FH)- The testimony of the 31 prosecution witness in the so-called "Butare trial", began in closed session Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The trial groups together six people accused of organising the massacres in Butare (southern Rwanda) in 1994.

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The witness code-named "RV", would testify mostly against the former minister of family women and family affairs, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, and Elie Ndayambaje, the former mayor of Muganza commune in Butare. Defence counsel for both the accused had unsuccessfully filed motions to bar DR's testimony. When the trial resumed Monday morning, the chamber retreated to deliberate on other outstanding motions. When it sat again in the afternoon, the session was again interrupted by many oral motions and only called witness RV to the stand at around15:30 hrs. The whole session was held in-camera. Even then, Ndayambaje's counsel, Pierre Boulé from Canada, had wanted the tribunal to force the witness testify in French and not in his native Kinyarwanda. He stated that his client was "well acquainted with the witness" and that RV had "a good command of the French language". The witness was allowed to testify in a language he felt comfortable with. The other four accused in this trial is Nyiramasuhuko son, who is also an alleged militia leader in Butare, Shalom Arsene Ntahobali, two former prefects of Butare; Colonel Alphonse Nteziryayo and Sylvain Nsabimana and Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Ngoma commune. The trial is continuing in Trial Chamber Two of the ICTR, composedof Judge William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Judge ArletteRamaroson from Madagascar and Judge Solomy Balungi Bossa of Uganda. KN/AT/FH (BT''02016e)