6 May 2009

Rwanda: Trial of Former Sub-Prefect Ntawukulilyayo Opens

The trial for genocide of the former sub-prefect, Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, opened Wednesday afternoon before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), reports Hirondelle Agency.

Addressing himself to the judges in his most solemn tone, Ibukunolu Babajide, from the office of the prosecutor, affirmed that the defendant was "a true merchant of death".

For the Nigerian magistrate, Ntawukulilyayo, and others, planned the genocide in the five communes which constituted his sub-prefecture of Gisagara, in the prefecture of Butare ,southern Rwanda.

According to Babajide, the former administrative official attracted his Tutsi employees in the trap, promising food and protection to them on Kibuye Hill.

When they gathered there, he ordered their death, accused the representative of the office of the prosecutor.

"He did not stop ordering to seek and kill Tutsis until the fall of the regime" in July 1994, alleged Babajide, disclosing that three categories of witnesses, the authors, the observers and the survivors of the genocide would come to testify against the former sub-prefect.

After this opening statement , lead defence counsel, the Mauritanian Maroufa Diabira, requested, by calling upon the tradition in his legal system, to make "some observations".

Having briefly deliberated at the hearing itself, the Chamber presided by Pakistani Judge Khalida Rashid Khan rejected this request, saying that the remarks of the prosecution did not require a reply from the defence.

The first witness for the prosecution, indicated by the pseudonym AZN, then took a seat on the stand. He will continue his testimony Thursday.

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

He, thereafter, vainly tried to oppose his transfer to the ICTR, a battle which he carried to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Transferred to Arusha in June 2008, Ntawukulilyayo is the third defendant transferred by France to this Tribunal. In 2000, Paris had transferred to the ICTR the former minister of higher education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, sentenced to life in prison, and Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, whose trial is not yet finished.

At eight months from the theoretical end of the first instance trials, six other defendants already in the custody of the Tribunal, including two former ministers, await to appear.

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