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Former Bourgmestre of Rukara pleads not guility

Jean Mpambara, formerly Bourgmestre of Rukara commune in Kibungo prefecture, today pleaded not guilty to one count of genocide when he made his initial appearance before Judge Andrésia Vaz of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

According to the indictment the accused, acting in concert with others, participated in the planning, preparation or execution of genocide in Rukara commune through his own affirmative acts, or through persons he assisted or commanded, or by persons following his exhortations in deed or in word.

Mpambara, 47, is alleged to have ordered, led, facilitated or aided and abetted attacks against Tutsis in his commune, in particular at Gahini Hospital and Rukara Parish, where thousands of them had sought refuge.

In preparing the campaign against the Tutsi in Rukara commune he is said to have promoted anti-Tutsi propaganda among the local population; to have recruited, trained and armed Interahamwe militias; and to have distributed arms to civilians for the purposes of attacks against the Tutsi.

The Prosecution further alleges that sexual violence was so widespread, and conducted so openly, and was so integrally incorporated in generalised attacks against civilian Tutsi that Mpambara must have known, or should have known, that it was occurring and that the perpetrators were his subordinates, subject to his control and acting under his orders. Several incidents of sexual violence, which took place in Rukara commune, were cited.

The accused was arrested on 21 June 2001 in Mukungwa refugee camp in Kigoma, Tanzania, and transferred to the Tribunal's Detention Facility in Arusha on 23 June 2001.

At today's hearing, having entered a plea of not guilty, Mpambara claimed that he was a victim of mistaken identity and that the circumstances of his arrest were illegal.

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