Arusha, 9 September 2008 (FH) - A genocide survivor testifying Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) accused Lieutenant Colonel Ephrem Setako, prosecuted for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, to have called for the extermination of Tutsis in January 1993.

1 min 25Approximate reading time

Referred by code name "SAQ" to protect his identity, the witness stated that the speech was made at the communal office of Nkuli, northern Rwanda, near the native village of the defendant. "A few days later, ethnic Tutsis from the surroundings were massacred and their houses set on fire", testified SAQ on the second day of his testimony.

According to this witness, the former director of legal affairs at the department of defence was speaking at a meeting of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) of former President Juvenal Habyarimana.

"He said that Hutus had to rise as one and exterminate the Tutsis", accused the survivor.

"Fight against the enemy who hides amidst you, the enemy of the country is the Tutsi", added the officer, according to SAQ who stressed that the Setako speech had received a thunderous ovation from the crowd of MRND militants.

The main defence counsel, American Lennox Hinds, suggested that his client could not have opportunity for this kind of incitement, as he represented the government army in the group of neutral military observers (GOMN). This group had been set up by the African leaders within the framework of the continent's efforts to put an end to the conflict which opposed the government of the time to the former rebellion of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) currently in power.

SAQ answered that he had never heard that Rwandans were part of these observers.

At the opening of the trial on 25 August, Nigerian Ifeomi Ojemi- Okali, who leads the prosecution team in the case, accused Setako of "having publicly and directly shown his hatred of Tutsis at meetings held before and in 1994".

Setako was arrested in February 2004 in a center for asylum applicants in the Netherlands. His trial is the second to begin this year after that, in May, of the former cabinet director of the department of the interior, Callixte Kalimanzira.


© Hirondelle News Agency