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Trial of Sylvestre Gacumbitsi Opens

The trial of Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, former Bourgmestre of Rusumo Commune, in Kibungo prefecture opened today before Trial Chamber III with the Prosecution promising to prove that the accused is guilty of all the five counts he is charged with. Gacumbitsi is charged with genocide, or in the alternative, complicity in genocide, and crimes against humanity for extermination, murder and rape.

Trial Attorney Richard Karegyesa who is assisted by Andra Mobberley told the court that the Prosecution alleges and shall prove by direct and circumstantial evidence that the accused executed the crimes he is charged with, with great efficiency, in person and by proxy.

He said that the accused embarked on a criminal course that initially involved mobilization of local authorities and political party extremists within his commune, liaising with the military establishment in Kibungo prefecture; the collection and distribution of weapons for use in the extermination campaign; the instigation of others to rape and kill Tutsi civilians and finally, his own active participation in the numerous killings that rocked Rusumo in April 1994.

The Prosecution said the court will hear evidence of “victims and survivors; innocent men and women who lost entire families, who were gang raped or witnessed their loved ones being raped at the hands and instigation of the accused and his cohorts.”

Also to be presented will be evidence of co-operators, ordinary men who committed some of the crimes with which Gacumbitsi is charged with; crimes for which they have since been convicted and sentenced in Rwanda.

The first witness, Patrick Fergal Keane, a former BBC journalist who was in Rwanda in the months of May and June in 1994, told the court about the many dead bodies he saw in various parts of the Kibungo prefecture and in particular at Nyarubuye Catholic Church. The witness who has written a book, “Season of Blood; the Rwanda Journey” showed a video film about the killings.

The trial is before Judges Andrésia Vaz, presiding, Jai Ram Reddy and Sergei Aleckseievich Egorov.

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