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Former Minister of Information pleads not guilty to six counts on his initial appearance

Eliezer Niyitegeka, a former Minister of Information of the 1994 interim government of Rwanda, today pleaded not guilty to six counts charging him with Genocide, Conspiracy to Commit Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity. The accused entered the plea during his initial appearance before Trial Chamber 3, composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay, presiding, Lloyd George Williams, and Pavel Dolenc.

Niyitegeka is alleged to have committed the crimes in Bisesero area which spans the communes of Gishyita and Gisovu, in Kibuye prefecture, Rwanda, where thousands of men, women and children who were predominantly Tutsi, sought refuge from attacks which took place throughout the prefecture, from about 9 April to 30 June 1994.

"At various locations and times throughout April, May and June 1994, and often in concert with others, Eliezer Niyitegeka brought to the area of Bisesero armed individuals and directed them to attack the people seeking refuge there. In addition, at various locations and times, and often in concert with others, Eliezer Niyitegeka personally attacked and killed persons seeking refuge in Bisesero," the indictment against the accused alleges.

The attackers, using guns, grenades, machetes, spears, pangas, cudgels and other weapons, are alleged to have caused thousands of deaths and numerous injuries to the men, women and children within the area of Bisesero.

Eliezer Niyitegeka, born in 1952, in Gisovu commune, was arrested on 9 February 1999 in Nairobi, Kenya and transferred to the Tribunal's Detention Facility in Arusha on 11 February 1999. He is defended by Counsel Sylvia Hannah Geraghty from Ireland.

Today's session was the first for new Judges Lloyd George William from Jamaica and St Nevis and Kitts, and Pavel Dolenc from Slovenia. They were elected on 3 November 1998 to perform duties in the Third Trial Chamber which was established by the United Nations Security Council last year. The new Judges were sworn in on 22 February 1999. [See Press Releases No. 150 and 164 for more information on the new Judges].

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