Arusha, March 10, 2010 (FH) - A protected defence witness denied Wednesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that Jean-Baptiste Gatete, former Director in ministry of Family and Women Affairs, was present during the killings of Tutsi refugees at Kiziguro parish in Murambi commune (northern Rwanda) in April 1994.

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‘'If I had seen him I would have spoken about him,'' witness code-named ‘'LA85'' told the Chamber during examination in-chief by the accused's French lead defence counsel, Marie-Pierre Poulain.

The witness, who was a former staff member of Murambi commune where the accused served as mayor before being appointed director in the ministry, said he was present when soldiers, gendarmes and Interahamwe militiamen attacked the Tutsi refugees at Kiziguro church compound on April 11, 1994 but claimed not to have spotted the accused among a crowd of approximately 500 people.

According to the witness, the attackers stormed into the church and forced some of the refugees out, including women and children, to the nearby compound where they were later on killed.

He narrated that Tutsis who were still alive were forced to transport the bodies to nearby mass graves after which they too ended up being killed.

During cross examination by Prosecution counsel Adelaide Whest from Sierra Leone, the witness admitted that local authorities behaved like people who were controlled by ‘'Satan'' as they did nothing to stop the mass killings.

‘'We had the impression that the local authorities had been conquered by a devil. They did nothing to protect the population,'' he told the attentive Chamber presided by Pakistan Judge, Khalida Khan.

The indictment, among others, alleges that the accused supervised and participated in the killings of civilians at Kiziguro parish on April 11, 1994.

The trial continues Thursday.

This trial started on October 20, 2009. The prosecution closed its case on November 16 after having heard 22 witnesses.


 © Hirondelle News Agency