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Four Former Rwandan Government Officials Plea Not Guilty to Genocide Charges

Four former senior officials of the interim government of Rwanda pleaded not guilty to charges that they participated in the 1994 genocide. The four made their further initial appearance today before the newly reconstituted Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

André Rwamakuba, who was Minister of Primary and Secondary Education and “spokesman” for the Interim Rwandan Government, had a plea of not guilty entered on his behalf because he did not attend the hearing. Rwamakuba is charged with four counts, including G enocide, or alternatively Complicity to Commit Genocide, and Extermination and Murder as Crimes against Humanity.

Rwamakuba was initially charged jointly with three other former officials in the case formerly known as the Government I case. Following a decision of the Trial Chamber on 14 February 2005 Rwamakuba’s case was separated from the joint case. The three other accused all pleaded not guilty in their initial appearances today before Trial Chamber III.

The three other accused are Edouard Karemera, former Minister of the Interior and Vice Chairman of the Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour le Développement (MRND) party; Mathieu Ngirumpatse, former Director General for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the MRND party; and Joseph Nzirorera, former Secretary-General of the MRND party, Speaker of the Rwandan Parliament and former Minister of Industry, Mines and Handcrafts.

Karemera, Ngirumpatse and Nzirorera are charged in a joint indictment with seven counts including, Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Direct and Public Incitement to Genocide, Genocide, or alternatively Complicity in Genocide, Rape and Extermination as Crimes against Humanity, and Serious Violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II.

The Government I trial initially opened on 27 November 2003 before the former Trial Chamber III composed of Judge Andresia Vaz ( Senegal), presiding, Judge Flavia Lattanzi ( Italy), and Judge Florence Rita Arrey (Cameroon). On 17 May 2004, Judge Vaz voluntary withdrew from the case following allegation of bias from the Defence attorneys.

The President of the Tribunal, Judge Erik Møse, recently appointed Judge Charles Michael Dennis Byron to preside in the case. Judge Byron (Saint Kitts and Nevis) and Judge Gberdao Gustave Kam (Burkina Faso) heard the pleas today.

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