Arusha, 23 September 2009 (FH) - On Wedenesday, the defence of the former Rwandan sub-prefect Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, on trial for genocide and direct and public incitement told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the massacres which took place in 1994 in the area, and the country at large, were just overwhelming for a mere administrative officer to put them under control.

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Making his opening statement for the defence of his client, Maroufa Diabira, lead defence counsel for the accused from Mauritanian said ‘Gisagara sub-prefect in Butare prefecture was not spared by the massacres and ruled out his client's involvement in the slaughter.

‘' We are here not to facilitate the guilty plea, but rather to ensure that justice is done to Mr. Ntawukulilyayo,'' the counsel told the attentive Chamber presided by Judge Khalida Khan from Pakistan.

‘'One could be ethnic Hutu and held administrative position in 1994 and yet could also be not guilty of genocide,'' charged the lawyer.

He said it was not possible that his client who served his nation well all of the sudden became a ‘'monster'' after April 6, 1994.

The first defence witness called immediately after the opening statement strongly denied that the accused attended a meeting held at office of Muyaga commune in Butare prefecture, south Rwanda and had incited killings April, 1994 as alleged by the prosecution.

‘' No he did not attend the meeting because if he did I would recognize him,'' quickly responded witness Louis Ngendahayo, former native of Muyaga commune and vice president of the then MRND ruling party in the commune.

The witness confirmed to the bench that five dignitaries, including the prefect of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana, Col. Tharcisse Muvunyi, and Alphonse Ntezirayo spoke at the meeting, but the accused was not present.

However, confronted by the prosecuting counsel Ibukunolu Babajide with a letter written and signed by the accused as the one who actually convened meeting, the witness answered: ‘' if he was the one who convened it he would come to the meeting.''

The trial is expected to continue on Thursday.

Ntawukulilyayo is accused of having massacred ethnic Tutsis who had sought refuge on a hill in his administrative entity in 1994. "Between 21 and 25 April 1994, Ntawukulilyayo gathered soldiers and gendarmes in Butare and transferred them to the Kabuye Hill (in his sub-prefecture) to kill Tutsis who were there", claims the indictment.

The prosecutor called 12 witnesses to support these allegations between 6 and 26 May.   

The former sub-prefect was arrested on 16 October 2007 in Carcassonne, south-western France, on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by the ICTR on 21 September, 2007.


© Hirondelle News Agency