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Gatete pleads not guilty

Jean-Baptiste Gatete, the former Mayor of Murambi Commune in Byumba prefecture today pleaded not guilty to all ten counts charging him with involvement in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The accused entered the plea when he made his initial appearance before Judge Yakov Ostrovsky (Russian Federation).

Gatete (49) is charged with genocide, or in the alternative, complicity in genocide; direct and public incitement to commit genocide; crimes against humanity for extermination, murder, persecution and rape; and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions.

The Prosecution alleged that despite his dismissal as Bourgmestre in 1993 following allegations that he persecuted Tutsis, the accused continued to exercise de facto authority over police, gendarmes and civilian militias.

Gatete is alleged to have led a campaign of terror against Tutsi civilians resulting in thousands of deaths in Byumba and Kibungo prefectures. [The accused] killed persons by his own hand, specifically ordered killings by subordinates, and led attacks,” the court was told. Under his command and direction, the Interahamwe militias are alleged to have massacred several thousand Tustsi civilians who had taken refuge in Mukaranga, Rukara and Kiziguro churches.

At Kiziguro church, for example, Gatete and his group of Interahamwe are alleged to have broken through the portals of the compound and forced Tutsi refugees to exit, “First the men, and later a number of the remaining women, were forced to lie on their stomachs, whereupon Interahamwe and civilian militias hacked them to death using traditional weapons.”

The accused is also alleged to have urged the Interahamwe and other civilian forces to rape and then kill Tusti women. Addressing a crowd in Kayonza commune Gatete is said to have urged the locals to “rid themselves of the filth by killing the children and raping the women before killing them.” Immediately thereafter a number of Tutsi women were dragged behind a nearby building and serially raped.

Duty Counsel was assigned by the Registrar to represent Jean–Baptiste Gatete, own Counsel or is assigned Counsel in accordance with the Rules of the Tribunal. A date for the trial will be fixed in due course.

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