The trial of Eliezer Niyitegeka, the former Minister of Information in the interim Government of Rwanda in 1994, closed today after 31 days of hearings during which 13 witnesses were heard for the Prosecution and 11 for the Defence. Niyitegeka himself did not testify. This was the fastest trial so far heard before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
In an amended indictment Niyitegeka faced ten counts including genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, rape as a crime against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions. The accused pleaded not guilty to all ten counts.
According to the Prosecutor, the accused committed the crimes in the Bisesero area of Kibuye Prefecture, where thousands of men, women and children who were predominantly Tutsis sought refuge from attacks which took place throughout the Prefecture between 9 April and 30 June 1994. Opening the case on 17 June 2002 the Prosecutor, represented by Senior Trial Attorney Mr. Kenneth Fleming and by Trial Attorney Ms Melinda Pollard, told the court that on several occasions and in concert with others, Niyitegeka had personally attacked and killed persons seeking refuge in Bisesero.
Eliezer Niyitegeka, was born in 1952 in Gisovu commune which includes part of the Bisesero area. He was arrested on 9 February 1999 in Nairobi, Kenya and was transferred to the Tribunal’s Detention Facility in Arusha on 11 February 1999. He was represented by Ms Sylvia Geraghty and Mr. Feargal Kavanagh of the Irish Bar.
The trial took place before Trial Chamber I composed of Judge Navanethem Pillay (South Africa), the President of ICTR, Judge Erik Møse (Norway) and Judge Andrésia Vaz (Senegal). The Chamber directed the Prosecution to submit its closing brief by 31 December 2002 and directed the Defence to submit its closing brief by 17 February 2003. Final Oral argument will be heard on 27 and 28 February 2003. The President thanked the parties for the professionalism with which the trial had been conducted.