Arusha, 24 June 2009 (FH) - A Belgium expert on Rwandan semi-traditional courts, known as Gacaca, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Wednesday that the name of Lt. Col Ephrem Setako, a former Rwandan military officer, charged for genocide and crimes against humanity before UN Court, did not surface anywhere in gacaca proceedings.

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The Gacaca courts are not presided by professional judges but by people considered of high esteem in the society.

The Belgian expert was challenging the prosecution's allegation that the accused attended a meeting in Ruhengeri Prefecture which incited killings against ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 genocide.

Bert Ingelaere, the 34th defence witness, observed that if the accused had organised the meeting and owing to the senior position he held in the military, it was just unlikely that his name could not have surfaced in the gacaca records.

‘'It is impossible for such a name not to surface during the gacaca proceedings,'' emphasized the Gacaca expert, who has studied records of more than 2,000 gacaca courts, including those in Mukingo and Nkuli communes in Ruhengeri prefecture, where the accused has been alleged to have committed the offence.

Lt. Col Setako is also a native of Ruhengeri.

Led in his Examination-in-Chief by the defendant's lead American Counsel, Professor Lennox Hinds, the witness said the purpoted meeting, assumed to have been attended by about 100 people, would not escape Gacaca records. Later, the Belgian was cross-examined by the prosecution.

Ingelaere has completed his testimony to pave the way for the defendant, Lt. Col Setako, to continue his own testimony before the Chamber.

According to Prof. Hinds, the accused commenced his defence on Monday but was briefly interrupted to give chance to two other defence witnesses to testify via video link.


© Hirondelle News Agency