The trial of a former senior officer in the Rwandan Armed Forces and Director of the Judicial Affairs Division of the Rwandan Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant-Colonel Ephrem Setako, began on 25 August 2008 before Trial Chamber I composed of Judges Erik Møse, presiding, Sergei Alekseevich Egorov and Florence Rita Arrey.
In its opening statement, the Prosecution told the Trial Chamber that it would present 25 witnesses who will testify and prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was one of the principal planners and executors of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Based on his seniority and close association with other high ranking military officers, politicians in President Juvénal Habyarimana’s government, civilian authorities, businessmen and leaders of militia groups, Setako is alleged to have formed part of a joint criminal enterprise to eliminate Tutsis at various places throughout Rwanda between 7 April and July 1994.
Senior Trial Attorney Ms. Ojemeni Okali stated that the accused allegedly committed these crimes despite the fact that he was a highly educated and privileged person who was a lawyer as well as a soldier.
Defence Counsel Professor Lennox Hinds indicated that he did not wish to make an opening statement at this stage. However, he cautioned the Trial Chamber to seek the truth as far the allegations against the accused were concerned.
Lieutenant-Colonel Setako (59) is charged with six counts of genocide, or alternatively complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity (murder and extermination), as well as violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II. The accused pleaded not guilty to all counts on 22 November 2004.
The Prosecution alleges that the accused, who was born in Nkuli Commune, Ruhengeri Prefecture, planned, instigated, ordered and participated in killing of Tutsi civilians in Ruhengeri and Kigali-ville prefectures. He is also alleged to have distributed arms to members of the Rwanda Armed Forces, the Presidential Guard, the Interahamwe, the Amahindure (Civil Defence Forces), and other soldiers engaged in the killings.
The accused was arrested on 25 February 2004 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and transferred to the United Nations Detention Facility on 17 November 2004 at the request of the Tribunal.