ARUSHA 23 May 2002 (Internews) Genocide suspect Arsene Shalom Ntahobali abducted women to be raped during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a witness testifying in the so-called “Butare Trial” today claimed before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Under cross-examination by Normand Marquis of Canada, co- counsel for Ntahobali, the witness — identified only as “TK” — alleged that Ntahobali often visited the Butare governor’s office where ethnic Tutsi refugees were gathered, in search of “good- looking” women whom he abducted and who were later raped. Ntahobali was allegedly a militia leader in Butare Province during the genocide.
TK is testifying for the prosecution in the trial against Ntahobali and five other genocide suspects, all from Butare.
“He [Ntahobali] would also come to see if any Tutsi men were still alive in order for them to be killed,” TK added.
When asked to describe the circumstances under which the women were raped, TK responded: “I saw with my own eyes the horrible [rape] scenes.” The witness then asked not to be pressed for details. According to TK, Ntahobali went around Butare escorted by ‘Interahamwe’ militiamen. The Interahamwe was the youth wing of the Movement of the Republic for National Development (MRND), the party that led a coalition government during the genocide.
More than 800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were killed during the genocide. An estimated 26,000 Tutsi were killed in Butare alone.
TK, the 11th prosecution, claimed in her main evidence that Ntahobali and his mother Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, also accused, made three trips to transport Tutsi refugees to an unknown destination to be killed. The witness claimed that Nyiramasuhuko rode in the vehicle carrying the refugees, driven by Ntahobali and escorted by militiamen.
Nyiramasuhuko is a former minister for family and women’s affairs, and the only woman accused at the ICTR. The other defendants in the trial are: Elie Ndayambaje, a former mayor of Muganza commune, Alphonse Nteziryayo, a former governor of Butare; Joseph Kanyabashi, a former mayor of Ngoma commune and Sylvain Nsabimana, a former Butare governor. Nsabimana took over from Ndayambaje as governor during the genocide.
The cross-examination of TK resumes on Monday.
The trial is held before Trial Chamber II of the ICTR, comprising Judges William Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Winston Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho and Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar.