The joint trial of six persons charged with Genocide, Crimes against Humanity and Serious Violations of the Geneva Conventions, in what is called the "Butare Group", commenced today before Trial Chamber II composed of Judges William Sekule (Tanzania), presiding, Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho) and Arlete Ramaroson (Madagascar).
The accused in the joint trial are Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister for Family and Women Affairs, (the first woman to be indicted by an international criminal tribunal and the only woman to be indicted by the ICTR so far), her son and former leader the interhamwe militia, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali; former Governor of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana; former Commanding Officer of the Military Police and former prefect of Butare, Alphonse Nteziryayo; former Mayor of Ngoma, Joseph Kanyabashi; and former Mayor of Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje.
The trial began with the opening statement of the Prosecution, which gave an overview of the prominent role played by the six accused persons in the commission of the crimes in Butare, a famous religious and academic centre in Rwanda.
The Prosecution told the court that it would prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused are guilty of the crimes they are charged with and are criminally responsible for their actions and those of their subordinates. The Prosecution added that it would do so through presentation of documentary evidence, and evidence from expert and factual witnesses, proving that the accused caused action, made speeches, used the media, distributed arms and trained militia, in committing the crimes.
On completion of the Prosecutor's opening statement, Defence Counsel for all the accused elected to make their opening statements after the Prosecution has concluded presentation of evidence as stipulated in Rule 84 of the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which states that, “Before presentation of evidence by the Prosecutor, each party may make an opening statement. The defence may however elect to make its statement after the Prosecutor has concluded presentation of evidence and before the presentation of evidence for the defence”.
All the accused pleaded not guilty during their initial appearance.