Arusha, 22 April 2009 (FH) - The defence of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko--the only woman indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for genocide and crimes against humanity-declined that the accused distributed condoms to rampaging Interahamwe militiamen so that they can rape with impunity Tutsi women during the 1994 genocide as argued by the prosecution.

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The prosecution has alleged that the former Rwandan Minister for Family and Women Affairs dished out generously condoms to Hutu men ostensibly to protect the Interahamwe militia from contracting viral diseases, but at the same time, ascertain that the serial rape against Tutsi young women continued undeterred.

‘'To argue that Pauline Nyiramasuhuko distributed condoms is an insult to her and to the victims and to argue that she even ordered her own son to rape young Tutsi women is an abomination,'' lamented the seemingly irritated Canadian  lead counsel, Nicole Bergevin, in her closing arguments.

The 63-year-old Nyiramasuhuko is jointly charged alongside five other accused, including her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, former alleged leader of Interahamwe. Her son was in the court-room quietly and attentively listening to the defence arguments.

Ms Bergevin, instead, pleaded that her client be acquitted of the heinous crimes allegedly committed during April-July, 1994, mass slaughter in Butare, southern Rwanda, one of the last areas to succumb to the worst human tragedy of modern century.

Ms Bergevin  told Trial Chamber II, presided by Judge William Sekule of Tanzania, that her client together with her colleagues in the government were rather preoccupied with several issues in 1994, including ending the war against the advancing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels ( now in power in Kigali) and bringing the rebels back to the negotiating table.

She further explained that the then interim cabinet officials who were fleeing, did  their utmost to put under control the deteriorating peace situation by introducing pacification campaigns, adding: There is no reason to blame it."

Guy Poupart, Nyiramasuhuko's co-counsel, said that the accused was victim of those who are trying to ensure that those Hutus who served in the Rwandan 1994 interim government were getting punished in one way or the other.

When considering the judgement, he requested the Chamber to take into consideration the 12 years the former minister had already spent in detention.

The prosecution has asked for life imprisonment for all the six accused in the trial, one of the largest and longest, before the UN Court.

Others accused in the trial dubbed as "Butare Trial' are: two ex-Governors, Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo and two former Mayors-- Joseph Kanyabashi and Eli Ndayambaje.

Normand Marquis, lead defence counsel for Ntahobali, took over the floor after the defence of her mother had concluded Wednesday evening.

The trial opened in June 2001.


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