A former Rwandan government minister has pleaded not guilty to 11 charges during his first appearance before the United Nations war crimes tribunal set up to deal with the 1994 genocide in the small country.
Callixte Nzabonimana, 55, who served as minister of youth and sports in Rwanda’s interim government in 1994, made the plea yesterday before Judge Dennis Byron of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is based in Arusha, Tanzania.
The charges against Mr. Nzabonimana include genocide, making direct and public incitements to commit genocide, and violations of the Geneva Conventions.
The indictment states that the ex-minister conspired with others to devise a plan to exterminate Rwanda’s civilian Tutsi population and eliminate members of the political opposition.
A former member of the Mouvement Républicain National pour le Développement et la Démocratie (MNRD), Mr. Nzabonimana is jointly charged with six others: Augustin Bizimana, Edouard Karemera, Andre Rwamakuba, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, Joseph Nzirorera and Felicien Kabuga.
He was arrested on Monday in the Tanzanian town of Kigoma and transferred the same day to the UN detention facility in Arusha.
The Security Council set up the ICTR in 1994 in the wake of that year’s genocide, during which some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered – mostly by machete or club – in just 100 days starting in early April.