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UN tribunal begins trial of Rwandan priest charged with genocide

UN tribunal begins trial of Rwandan priest charged with genocide

The trial before the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of a priest and former college rector charged with genocide, murder and extermination against the Tutsi ethnic group began today in Arusha, Tanzania.

Hormisdas Nsengimana, a priest and formerly a Rector of Christ-Roi College in Nyanza, Nyabisindu Commune in Butare Prefecture, is charged with four counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity for murder and extermination.

In her opening remarks, the Chief of Prosecution, Sylvana Arbia, said that she will call on two dozen witnesses, including members of the clergy; members of the Hutu ethnic group who were College employees; victims and survivors of mass attacks; former College students; and experts who will put Mr. Nsengimana’s activities during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide in context.

The 53-year old suspect is alleged to have been one of the organizers of the Tutsi slaughter in Nyanza, Butare, in 1994, and is accused of been a leader in “Les Dragons,” or “Escadrons de la Mort” (“Death Squad”), which allegedly played a key role in the murder of Tutsis in and around the College and other parts of the region.

He is alleged to have worked in concert with soldiers in the prefecture to commit these crimes.

The defendant is also alleged to have been instrumental in the killing of Tutsi priests from his College. In one incident, he allegedly paid several people to obtain the whereabouts of three Tutsi priests who had fled the College, and sent the information to his co-perpetrators who killed them.

Mr. Nsengimana’s counsel, David Hooper, said that his client believes this trial will vindicate him. The accused disputes all allegations, was caught up in the deadly events of 1994 and lost family members and friends, Mr. Hooper said.

On a 24 April appearance before the Tribunal, Mr. Nsengimana pleaded not guilty to three counts of genocide, murder and extermination as crimes against humanity.

He was arrested in Cameroon on 21 March 2002 and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha on 10 April 2002.