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Trials of former Priest and Senior Military Commanders Begin

Two trials involving five accused commenced today before Trial Chambers II and III of the ICTR.

In the Military II trial before Trial Chamber II, composed of Judges Joseph Asoka Nihal de Silva, Taghrid Hikmet and Seon Ki Park, four senior military officials are charged with genocide, alternatively complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity (murder, extermination, rape, persecution, and other inhumane acts), and serious violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II.

The four accused are Major-General Augustin Bizimungu, the former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army; Major-General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former Chief of Staff of the National Gendarmerie; Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, the former Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion; and his second-in-command, Captain Innocent Sagahutu.

In its opening statement, the Prosecution stated that the four accused conspired to eliminate the Tutsi in Rwanda, and used their positions in the army and the police to execute the plan to exterminate the Tutsi, identifying them as the “enemy”. The accused are also charged with responsibility for the widespread rapes and sexual violations committed by soldiers and gendarmes against women in Rwanda.

In Trial Chamber III, comprising Judges Andrésia Vaz, Karin Hökborg and Gberdao Gustave Kam, the Prosecution charges Father Athanase Seromba with genocide, alternatively complicity in genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination). The accused, who was the priest of Nyange parish in Kivumu commune in Kibuye prefecture, is alleged to have supervised the massacres of thousands of Tutsi refugees, men, women and children, at the parish in April 1994, in execution of a plan to exterminate the Tutsi in Kivumu commune.

The accused Seromba, Bizimungu, Ndindiliyimana and Sagahutu were not present in court, as they were protesting against efforts by the Rwandan Government to seek the transfer of detainees to be tried and to serve their sentences in Rwanda. Counsel for the Accused were present and the trials commenced with the Prosecution’s opening statements.

The commencement of these trials will bring the number of accused on trial to twenty-five and the number of persons whose trials have either been completed or are in progress to forty-eight.

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