Five senior officials of the 1994 interim government of Rwanda, including two ministers, Edouard Karemera (Interior) and Andre Rwamakuba (Primary and Secondary Education), today pleaded not guilty to 11 counts jointly charging them with Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Genocide, Complicity in Genocide, Direct and Public Incitement to Commit Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and Violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II, during their initial appearance. The others are Mathieu Ngirumpatse (former Director General for Foreign Affairs in the President's Office), Joseph Nzirorera (former Speaker of Parliament), and Juvenal Kajelijeli (former Bourgmestre of Mukingo commune in Ruhengeri Prefecture).
Karemera's plea was entered on his behalf by the Trial Chamber, after he failed to enter a plea of "guilty" or "not guilty" in the absence of his Defence Counsel. This is in accordance with Article 62(3) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Tribunal which provide that, "The Trial Chamber shall: call upon the accused to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on each count; should the accused fail to do so, enter a plea of not guilty on his behalf ."
The five accused are alleged to have conspired among themselves and with others, to work out a plan with the intent to exterminate the Tutsi population and eliminate members of the opposition, so that they could remain in power.
It is alleged that the components of this plan consisted of, among other things, recourse to hatred and ethnic violence, the training of and distribution of weapons to militiamen, as well as the preparation of lists of people to be eliminated.
Their joint indictment further alleges that the five accused persons organised, ordered and participated in the massacres perpetrated against the Tutsi population and moderate Hutus in Kigali, Butare, Gisenyi, Gitarama, and Cyangugu prefectures, and in Kibuye region.
The Trial Chamber was told that as from 7 April 1994, massacres of the Tutsi population and the murder of numerous political opponents were perpetrated throughout the territory of Rwanda. These crimes which had been planned and prepared for a long time by prominent civilians and military figures who shared the extremist Hutu ideology, were carried out by militiamen, military personnel and gendarmes on the orders and directives of the authorities including the accused.
During the session, the Trial Chamber ordered the Registry to find another Counsel for Edouard Karemera, after receiving a message from the counsel, Emmanuel Leclercq from Belgium, saying he was pulling out from the case because he did not share the same outlook with his client on the issue of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. "I believe there was genocide while my client does not believe so," part of the letter said. Defence Counsel for the other accused are David Hooper from UK (Rwamakuba), Charles Roach from Canada (Ngirumpatse), Jacques de Hemptinne from Belgium (Nzirorera), and Lennox Hinds from USA (Kajelijeli).
Before Trial Chamber 1:
Georges Rutaganda Begins Testimony in his own Defence
Georges A.N. Rutaganda, a former businessman and Vice-President of Interahamwe today began testifying in his own defence and told Trial Chamber 1 that he was brought up in a staunch Christian family. He said that after finishing college and working for a few years as an agricultural engineer, he established a family business, Groupe Rutaganda SARL, with offices in Kigali and branches in several parts of the country.
Rutaganda is the 14th defence witness in his trial which began on18 March 1997. The Prosecution which closed its case on 29 May 1998 brought 27 witnesses. On 30 May 1996, the accused pleaded not guilty to 8 counts charging him with Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and Violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions. He is defended by Counsel Tiphaine Dickson from Canada. Rutaganda, who was born in 1958 in Gitarama, Rwanda, was arrested on 10 October 1995 in Zambia and transferred to Arusha on 26 May 1996.