Arusha, 22 February 2008 (FH) - The number of people wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) went down this week to thirteen after the arrest of the former Minister for Youth and Sports, Callixte Nzabonimana, on Monday in Kigoma, western Tanzania.

1 min 55Approximate reading time


Nzabonimana was transferred the following day to the ICTR detention center in Arusha and  mad an initial appearance  Wednesday before the UN Court, trying key suspects of the 1994 genocide.

The presiding Judge Dennis Byron has ordered the Registrar to set a date for the hearing of the trial.

The former minister has pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and rape. He is prosecuted for massacres of ethnic Tutsis in his native region of Gitarama, central Rwanda. He features in the ICTR's list of top six.

The last time a suspect was arrested was in 16 October 2007. The accused, Dominique Ntawukuriryayo, former sub-prefect of Gisagara, southern Rwanda, has since been in detention  in France where he resided before his capture. The Court of Appeal of Paris has, however, just ordered his transfer to Arusha. His defence has said they plan to appeal against the decision.

Events at the ICTR this week were also marked by the closing arguments in the trial of Emmanuel Rukundo, a Catholic Priest accused of genocide.

The Prosecutor has requested life in prison against him, particularly underlying the gravity of the crimes committed by the priest during the genocide. The defence, for its part, argued for an acquittal.

According to lawyers of the priest, prosecutor did not prove beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendant.  The date of the pronouncement of the judgment will be announced at a later date.

Hearings were also held in three other cases-- Butare, Government II and Military II.

Butare is the oldest trial currently in progress. It started in June 2001. Currently, it is the fifth of the six co-defendants who is presenting his defence case.

The Government II trial, for its part, involves four former ministers of the interim government in power during the 1994 genocide. This week, the last defendant on the list, the former Civil Service Minister, Prosper
Mugiraneza, began his defence.

In his opening arguments, Mugiraneza's lawyer, Tom Moran of United States stated that "the simple fact of belonging to the interim government does not suggest membership of a criminal organization".

Mr Moran argued that prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, suffering from a memory lapse or straightforwardly lying.

Mugiraneza has been on trial since 6 November 2003 with his former colleagues Casmir Bizimungu (Health), Justin Mugenzi (Trade) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs).

In Military II, which involves four high ranking officers, including the chiefs of staff of the army and the gendarmerie, the tribunal heard the testimony of Alain de Brouwer, a Belgian politician, about the facts of the events which preceded the genocide. He was called by the defence of the chief of staff of the Rwandan gendarmerie in 1994, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana.

The three cases are expected to continue next week.

© Hirondelle News Agency