Arusha, 12 September 2007 (FH) - Tutsis that took refuge in the area of Matyazo in Butare (southern Rwanda) in 1994 were killed by soldiers, affirmed a witness Wednesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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Matyazo is in the Ngoma commune, which its former Mayor Joseph Kanyabashi is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is on trial alongside five others originating from Butare, including a former woman minister.

Witness D-5-W, a resident of Matyazo, who testified for Kanyabashi, declared that the massacres in his town were the work of soldiers.

The witness stated how the local population had been organized to confront the attackers that came from outside but that it had been dissuaded by soldiers.

According to M.D-5-W, soldiers' led by an officer came to Matyazo and forced the inhabitants to accompany them to sites where Tutsis fleeing persecution had sought refuge.

Matyazo sheltered refugees in particular at its primary school, the local dispensary and the Pentecostal church. They were massacred in late April 1994, indicated the witness.

D-5-W reported that Tutsis from Matyazo were killed according to an identical scenario. The soldiers, helped by civilians, initially checked identity cards, then separated Hutus from Tutsis and finally opened fire on the latter that had been encircled.

The witness stated, that he noted the absence of the sector adviser, the soldiers had declared that he was an accomplice of the defendant Kanyabashi, called Kanyabatutsi (friend of the Tutsis), he said.

The witness was questioned by Kanyabashi's main counsel, Michel Marchand (Canada).

In a preliminary statement at the presentation of Kanyabashi's defence on 10 July, Marchand had affirmed that the soldiers "split the massacres amongst themselves" in Ngoma commune. Matyazo was attacked by those of the Ngoma camp, he said.

In addition to the Ngoma military camp, the commune had a school for warrant officers and a gendarmerie camp.

"How could Mr. Kanyabashi who was already called, before April 94, Kanyabatutsi (friend of the Tutsis), prevent the soldiers, who had decided to work for the genocide, to massacre Tutsis who were found in Ngoma commune?", argued Marchand.

This trial known as the Butare group started in June 2001. Kanyabashi is the second to last defendant to present his defence. This witness is the third on a list of 30. Kanyabashi‘s defence case began on 20 August.

© Hirondelle News Agency