Arusha, February 23, 2010 (FH) - A Tutsi woman witnessing for the Prosecution against former Minister of Planning Augustin Ngirabatware, who is on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), described on Tuesday how she was humiliated and insulted, day in day out,  when working in the public service prior to the 1994 genocide.

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"All Tutsis in our department were insulted and humiliated. We were all openly humiliated", said the witness dubbed ANAP to protect her identity.

She inadvertently mentioned the name of the department she had been working in but the presiding Tanzanian judge, William Hussein Sekule, ruled that this detail should not be made public.

"All these years, I was gripped by fear", the witness said referring to the period after the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) had launched its attack from neighbouring Uganda on December 1, 1990.

"I was Tutsi, I was accused of being a member of the RPF, I had all reasons to be scared", she added.

Her fears and the threats were exacerbated by the downing of President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane on April 6, 1994, which triggered off large-scale killings.

She then decided to seek refuge in a neighbour's house, the beginning of ordeal during the genocide.

When the Chamber requested the trial to proceed behind closed doors, the witness, who now holds Belgian citizenship, had not yet leveled direct accusations against Augustin Ngirabatware.

Prior to her testimony, British lead defence counsel Peter Herbert had pointed out that the personal data on the witness's identification slip for the hearing was at variance with the data given to Belgian authorities in view of her naturalization.

The Chamber did not allow for a debate of the matter but Peter Herbert is expected to raise the issue again during cross-examination.

Charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, Augustin Ngirabatware pleads not guilty. According to the indictment, he incited Hutus to kill their Tutsi neighbours in his hometown of Nyamyumba (Gisenyi Prefecture) between April 6 and April 12, 1994. He is also charged with misappropriating public funds to finance the Interahamwe militia.


© Hirondelle News Agency