Arusha, October 14, 2009 (FH) - Captain Ildephonse Nizeyimana on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity as he made his initial appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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"I plead not guilty", the ex-officer of the Rwandan army said calmly in front of the Pakistani judge Khalida Khan, who then asked the Registry to set a date for the opening of the trial.

Nizeyimana was second in command of the Noncommissioned Officers School (Ecole des sous-officiers, ESO) in the southern town of Butare at the time of the 1994 genocide.

He was arrested in Kampala (Uganda) on October 5 and transferred the following day to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha (Tanzania).

According to the indictment read out before a packed courtroom, Captain Nizeyimana is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, rape as a crime against humanity and other inhumane acts.

He is charged notably with the murder of  several Tutsis in Butare, including the assassination of Rosalie Gicanda, the widow of the next to last king of Rwanda, Mutara III Rudahigwa.

The indictment further alleges that Nizeyimana participated in the drawing up of lists of Tutsi intellectuals to be killed, and highlights that the Captain was "a member of President Habyarimana‘s inner circle".

It says Nizeyimana let his men rape Tutsi girls and women, as part of a genocidal project.

The ICTR is the first international court to have adopted a jurisprudence positing that rapes can be constituent elements of a collective plan to eliminate in part or in whole a racial or ethnic group.

Nizeyimana, aged 46, told the court he was born in Mutura commune, in the prefecture of Gisenyi (northwest Rwanda).

According to Ugandan daily The Monitor, he ran a small business in Goma (eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC) before his arrest. Knowing he was wanted by the ICTR, he frequently changed his identity. He entered Uganda under the false name of Hitimana Kabogo.

Nizeyimana was on a list of ICTR's twelve most wanted fugitives. The US government has promised 5 million dollars for any information leading to their arrest.

According to The Monitor, Kampala is now claiming the reward.


© Hirondelle News Agency