Arusha, October 16, 2009 (FH) - A key Rwanda genocide suspect, Captain Ildephonse Nizeyimana, on Wednesday pleaded not guilty to charges of 1994 slaughter 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 Non-commissioned 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 Queen Rosalie Gicanda, a symbolic figure for the Tutsis.

Nizeyimana was on a list of ICTR's twelve most wanted fugitives.

Meanwhile, the defence of the eldest detainee at the ICTR, Yussuf Munyakazi,74, who is on trial for genocide and extermination,  completed their testimony on Thursday after fielding a total of 20 witnesses, including the accused himself.

Among other things, the accused is specifically alleged to have led interahamwe militiamen from Bugarama commune, Cyangugu prefecture, south-western Rwanda, where he lived, to attack and kill Tutsis who sought refugee in various churches in the region. He has denied the charges.        

In another development, the trial of former Rwandan Deputy Governor Dominique Ntawukulilyayo on Tuesday was adjourned to November 16 after hearing the 16th defence witness. The court plans to hear eight more witnesses, including the accused himself, between November 16 and November 26.

Ntawukulilyayo is charged with genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide in the southern Gisagara sub-prefecture, of which he was the Deputy Governor in 1994. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges. The defence case started on September 23. The prosecution completed its case after calling 12 witnesses between May 6 and 26.

In the trial of former Rwandan Minister for Planning, Augustin Ngirabatware, a protected witness said that the accused was a kind of "God" in his native region.

"Minister Ngirabatware was considered a God. Everybody respected him. They did anything he asked, "said the witness, dubbed ANAK to protect his identity on Tuesday.

Only five witnesses of the prosecution have been heard since the beginning of this trial on September 23. The prosecution team blames protracted cross-examinations for the slow pace of the trial.

Two important events are scheduled for next week. The trial of Jean-Baptiste Gatete, former Mayor of Murambi, is expected to start on Tuesday. The trial of three former leaders of MRND, known as Karemera Trial, will resume on Monday.


.© Hirondelle News Agency