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Three former cabinet ministers plead not guilty

Three former cabinet ministers in the 1994 interim Government of Rwanda today made their initial appearance before Trial Chamber II of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Two pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity and one had his plea of not guilty entered on his behalf by the Trial Chamber after he failed to plead.

The two who pleaded "not guilty" are, Justin Mugenzi (50), former Minister of Trade and Industry, and Prosper Mugiraneza (42), former Minister of the Civil Service, and the Trial Chamber entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Jerome Bicamumpaka (42), former Minister of Foreign Affairs. A fourth, Casimir Bizimungu (48), former Minister of Health , who is jointly charged with the three could not enter his plea because his assigned lawyer, Judith Bourne, from USA had not arrived in Arusha.

The Prosecution alleged that the accused jointly participated in the planning, preparation or execution of a common plan, to commit the atrocities against Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. "The crimes were committed by them personally, by persons they assisted or by their subordinates, and with their knowledge or consent," the Prosecution told the Trial Chamber.

The charges included eight counts of Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, Genocide, Complicity in Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity. These crimes are alleged to have resulted in massacres against Tutsis and moderate Hutus at the Centre Hospitalier de Kigali (CHK), in Butare where among those murdered was the former Queen of Rwanda, Rosalie Gicanda, a historical symbol of all Tutsis. Also cited were massacres which took place at Butare University Hospital and at the Secondary Nursing School in Kabgayi, Gitarama prefecture.

Mugenzi, was separately charged with a ninth count of Direct and Public Incitement to Commit Genocide. He is alleged to have made statements inciting people to kill Tutsis, notably in Gisenyi, Kigali and Murambi. During a meeting held in Murambi, for example, the accused is alleged to have supported the massacres committed by the Interahamwe in Gitarama prefecture and asked for the sacking of the Prefect and the Bourgmestres opposed to the massacres.

Bicamumpaka and Mugiraneza are also jointly charged with a ninth count of Direct and Public Incitement to Commit Genocide, according to which, as ministers, they are alleged to have taken no measures to stop massacres of the civilian population Kigali, Butare, Gitarama, Gisenyi, Ruhengeri and Kibuye prefectures. On the contrary, they are alleged to have encouraged the killings, the Prosecution said.

Mugenzi, Bicamumpaka and Mugiraneza were arrested in Cameroon on 6 April 1999 and transferred to Arusha on 31 July 1999.

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