Trial of former mayor in Rwanda gets underway at UN tribunal

29 July 2003

The trial of a former mayor in Rwanda began today at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), with prosecutors charging that the accused is guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, for extermination, murder and rape.

The trial of a former mayor in Rwanda began today at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), with prosecutors charging that the accused is guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, for extermination, murder and rape.

The trial attorney told the court Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, former Bourgmestre of Rusomo Commune, 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 and the collection and distribution of weapons for use in the extermination campaign. Mr. Gacumbitsi also reportedly instigated others to rape and kill Tutsi civilians, and actively participated in the numerous killings that rocked Rusumo in 1994.

The court also heard from its first witness, a former journalist with the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) who was in Rwanda in 1994 and who described the many dead bodies he saw at the time.

In other news, the Tribunal has initiated major moves to strengthen its relations with the Rwandan Genocide Survivor Groups following a five-day visit to Rwanda for talks with survivor groups and senior government officials.

“It is the Tribunal’s intention to revive, pursue and develop a better and harmonious working relationship with the two organizations,” the court said in a press release, referring to the IBUKA and the AVEGA.

The talks centred on settling past differences, including the smooth provision and facilitation of witnesses to the ongoing trials and ensuring that a sustainable channel of communication between the parties was maintained at all times, as well as the welfare of genocide witnesses and victims and matters concerning international justice.

 

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