Arusha, 29 August 2007 (FH) - A witness denied Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that Siméon Nshamihigo, a former magistrate, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, committed murder as the prosecutor alleges.   

2 min 4Approximate reading time

The protected witness HMN, 18th since the beginning of the defence case on 23 April, described the circumstances of the death of Théoneste Karangwa, a rich Tutsi businessman, on 7 April 1994 in Cyangugu. The ICTR prosecutor attributes the responsibility of this murder to Siméon Nshamihigo. The defendant has pled not guilty.
Mrs. HMN, who owned a shop not far from the residence of Karangwa, stated that she had been an eyewitness to this crime. According to her, Karangwa was killed by individuals with masked faces, covered in dry banana leaves, armed with machetes and clubs. "One rolled him up in a mattress and set it on fire", she said.
"While he was being attacked, others plundered his house", added Mrs. HMN who specified that the attack had lasted twenty to twenty five minutes.
Questioned by the lawyer of Nshamihigo, Henry Benoit (Canada), about the presence of the defendant on the scene of the crime, Mrs. HMN answered that she had not seen him there.
To the question of knowing if she had identified "an unspecified authority figure" among the attackers, the witness also answered no.
"I did not identify an authority figure. But some time afterwards, when they came to take the corpse, I saw a doctor who was called Pie. He was a member of the Red Cross ", indicated Mrs. HMN.
Siméon Nshamihigo was substitute to the prosecutor in Cyangugu in 1994. The ICTR prosecutor alleges that he encouraged Interahamwe militiamen affiliated to the governing party to kill Karangwa. The victim was a member of the opposition party. According to the indictment, Nshamihigo would have consequently taken the vehicle of Karangwa and his driver.
The representative of the prosecutor, the Ivorian Alphonse Van, suggested that the goods plundered at Karangwa had been taken to the shop of the witness. Mrs. HMN refuted this allegation.
Alphonse Van also stated that Nshamihigo was a friend of the husband of the witness. "A friend of my husband would have come to the house, but, him, I never saw him at home", answered Mrs. HMN. According to her, Nshamihigo was simply one of the customers of her shop.
The prosecution alleges that Nshamihigo exerted a control over the Interahamwe which committed massacres of Tutsis in Cyangugu. "It is very easy to affirm that Siméon Nshamihigo is an Interahamwe leader; it is another thing to prove it ", declared his defence.
The trial off Nshamihigo began on 25 September 2006. The defendant has until 21 September to call witnesses for his defence.
The chamber also heard the testimony of Odette Ndeberinka, the younger sister of the wife of Nshamihigo. Mrs. Nshamihigo, for her part, testified for the defence of her husband in April.
Odette Ndeberika who resides in France where she is "a life assistant", lived at Nshamihigo's residence in April 1994. She notably corroborated the testimony of her older sister according to whom Nshamihigo had welcomed to his home several people fleeing the war and the massacres, including Tutsis.

© Hirondelle News Agency