The trial of four former senior officials in the interim government of Rwanda in 1994, the Karemera et al, formerly known as the Government I case, began today with the prosecution saying that it was going to prove that the accused bore individual criminal responsibility for the genocide and related crimes committed in Rwanda. The trial is before Trial Chamber III composed of Judges Andrésia Vaz (Senegal) presiding, Judge Florence Rita Arrey (Cameroon), and Judge Flavia Lattanzi (Italy).
The accused are Edouard Karemera, former Minister of the Interior and Vice Chairman of the Mouvement Révolutionnaire National pour le Développement (MRND) party, André Rwamakuba former Minister of Primary and Secondary Education and member of the Mouvement Démoctratique Républicain (MDR), Mathieu Ngirumpatse former Director General for Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the MRND party, and Joseph Nzirorera former Secretary-General of the MRND party, Speaker of the Rwandan parliament and former Minister of Industry, Mines and Handcraft
They are faced with seven counts charging them with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and violations of the Geneva conventions and additional protocol II.
In its opening remarks the prosecution, led by Mr. Don Webster, said evidence would be brought to prove that the accused committed the crimes against the Tutsi population and moderate Hutus in Kigali, Butare, Gisenyi, Gitarama, and Cyangugu and Kibuye prefectures. He added that at the end of the trial the accused will not be seen as learned people but for what they are - criminals who participated in killings and recruited, indoctrinated, incited and ordered the Interahamwe to destroy the Tutsis.
Defence Counsel for Karemera, Mr. Didier Skoricki from France, speaking also on behalf of two other accused, Rwamakuba and Ngirumpatse, told the court that accused were innocent and actually they are the ones who appealed to the international community to come and stop the killings. Mr. David Hooper from the United Kingdom and Mr. John Floyd from the USA are representing Rwamakuba and Ngirumpatse respectively. Rwamakuba was not in court yesterday but the Trial Chamber asked his Defence Counsel, to stand on his behalf. Judge Vaz also asked the Registry to remind the accused that this was his trial and therefore it was important for him to attend the sessions.
The Defence Counsel for Nzirorera, Mr. Peter Robinson from the USA, also reiterated the innocence of his client, saying he was one of those who deplored the killings, tried to stop them and even had some of his relatives killed.
On 3 November 2003, the trial of Bizimungu et al formerly referred to as Government II involving four other Senior Government Officials started and is on going before Trial Chamber II (SEE PR NO 368 OF 3 NOVEMBER 2003).