Three persons arrested in Kenya last July during the Nairobi-Kigali (NAK1) operation appeared in court today and pleaded "not guilty" to charges accusing them of participating in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The accused who are all detained in Arusha are George Ruggiu, a former Journalist and Broadcaster with Radio Télévision Libre de Mille Collines who appeared before Trial Chamber I; Major Aloys Ntabakuze, a former Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion of the Rwandan Armed Forces; and Sylvain Nsabimana, a former Prefect of Butare, who appeared before Trial Chamber 2.
Another accused, Hassan Ngeze, a former Editor in Chief of a newspaper Kangura who was also brought in court to answer charges against him, could not enter a plea because his Defence Counsels Ngata Karnau and Wamuti Ndengwa from Kenya were not present. A new date will be fixed for his initial hearing.
Ruggiu who is defended by Counsel Mohamed Aouini from Tunisia pleaded not guilty to two counts of Direct and Public Incitement to Commit Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity .The accused is alleged to have made broadcasts through the radio which "incited to kill and/or cause serious bodily and/or mental harm to Tutsis" as well as "persecuted Tutsis, certain Hutus and Belgians." Ruggiu, the first non-Rwandese to be charged by the Tribunal, holds both Italian and Belgian nationality .
Major Ntabakuze, who is jointly accused with General Gratien Kabiligi, pleaded not guilty to five counts which charge him with Genocide, Complicity in Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, and Serious Violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II thereto. He is alleged to have organised his para-commando battalion to set up road blocks at which Tustis were selected and killed. While under his command, the battalion also tracked down, arrested and killed the main leaders of the political opposition and prominent figures in the Tutsi community.
The indictment further states that by his acts and omissions, he is allegedly responsible for "killing civilians as part of a systematic and widespread attack against a civilian population, based on ethnic or racial grounds." He is defended by Counsel Simonette Rokotondrama from Madagascar.
Nsabimana, who is defended by Counsel Josette Kadji from Cameroon, pleaded not guilty to five counts of Genocide, Complicity in Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity and Serious Violations of Article 3 Common to the Geneva Conventions and of Additional Protocol II. The accused is alleged to have organised the murder of Tutsis as well as to have incited the population to massacre them in Butare prefecture.
Trial dates in all the three cases will be fixed later.
Meanwhile, hearing in the case of Jean-Paul Akayesu continued today with the Defence Counsel Nicolas Tiangaye cross examining witness "JJ” who told the court how she was raped several times when she and others went to Taba commune to seek refuge. Akayesu was the Bourgomaster of Taba during the 1994 massacres in Rwanda.
Earlier in the day, before Trial Chamber 2, hearing of a motion filed by the Prosecution for Orders for Protective Measures for Victims and Witnesses to crimes alleged in the indictment of Colonel Theoneste Bagosora was adjourned to Friday 31 October 1997 because documents of the case were not ready.