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Alleged mastermind of 1994 Rwanda genocide goes on trial at UN tribunal

Alleged mastermind of 1994 Rwanda genocide goes on trial at UN tribunal

The alleged mastermind behind the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and his three co-defendants went on trial today as United Nations prosecutors said in their opening statement that they would bring to light "the central and pivotal role" the accused played in the plot to exterminate the country's Tutsi population.

In her opening statement, Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte told the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the accused were responsible for crimes whose gravity and character shocked the conscience of the world. She said that following the establishment by several verdicts of the ICTR that genocide had been committed in Rwanda, the Prosecution would now reveal those who were behind it.

Prosecution Attorney Chile Eboe-Osuji followed Ms. Del Ponte by explaining to the court the complex network of conspiracy behind the genocide in Rwanda and the important and strategic role the four accused - Col. Théoneste Bagosora, Lt. Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva, Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze and Brig. Gen. Gratien Kabiligi - had allegedly played in it.

The trial at the Arusha-based ICTR began in the absence of the defendants, who were not in court because they argued that their rights were being violated. The four men asked their attorneys to represent them and the defence team then unsuccessfully argued for the adjournment of the trial because they said they had not received the trial briefs in time and in both English and French, the Tribunal's official languages

Presiding Judge Lloyd George Williams said that the court would not force the accused to attend their trial; however, he ordered the Registry to write them a letter stating that it was in their interest and in the interest of justice to attend the court proceedings. The other members of the bench are Judges Pavel Dolenc and Andrésia Vaz.

The four accused are charged in the joint trial with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity for murder, extermination, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts.