The Trial of Eliezer Niyitegeka, former Minister of information in the interim Government of Rwanda in 1994, began today with the Prosecution making its opening Statement before Trial Chamber I composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay presiding, Eric Møse and Andrésia Vaz. The Prosecution told the court that it would produce evidence proving that the accused was guilty of the ten counts he is charged with. Counsel Sylvia Geraghty (UK) and Feargal Kavanagh (Ireland) defend the accused.
Ken Fleming, the Trial Attorney, immediately called the first witness, Anthony Lucassen, a prosecution investigator working in Kigali who presented several pictures of Bisesero, an area that will be the subject of testimony by witnesses and where the crimes are alleged to have been committed.
In an earlier indictment the accused was charged with six counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity (murder and extermination). Later the Prosecutor, in an amended indictment, added four new counts of rape, direct and public incitement to genocide, complicity to genocide as an alternative count to genocide and violations of the Geneva Conventions. The accused pleaded not guilty to all these counts.
According to the Prosecutor, the former minister of Information is alleged to have committed the crimes in Bisesero area, where thousands of men, women and children who were predominantly Tutsis sought refuge from attacks, which took place throughout the Prefecture of Kibuye from 9 April to 30 June 1994.
The Prosecutor told the court that often and in concert with others, Niyitegeka personally attacked and killed persons seeking refuge in Bisesero. Between the dates of 6 April and July 1994, notably, though not exclusively in Kibuye prefecture, Rwanda, Niyitegeka did cause women to be raped. The former minister of Information is also accused of ordering, commanding or participating in attacks of Tutsis civilians, in Kibuye Prefecture knowing that rape and sexual violence against Tutsis women were systematically incorporated in such attacks. He also allegedly failed to stop or discipline or punish the perpetrators, including soldiers, communal police, civilians and militias subject to his authority as a Minister of the interim government.
Eliezer Niyitegeka, was born in 1952 in Gisovu commune. He was arrested on 9 February 1999 in Nairobi, Kenya and was transferred to the Tribunal’s Detention Facility in Arusha on 11 February 1999.