ARUSHA 22 May 2002 (Internews) Genocide suspect Pauline Nyiramasuhuko ordered militiamen to slit the throat of a Tutsi girl during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a witness today maintained before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The witness — identified only as “TK” — reaffirmed the oral testimony she made on Monday that Nyiramasuhuko, a former minister for family and women’s affairs, ordered militiamen at the Butare governor’s office to kill the girl named Trifina. The girl was among a group of ethnic Tutsi who sought refuge at the compound.
Under cross-examination Guy Poupart of Canada, co-counsel for Nyiramasuhuko, TK insisted that she heard Nyiramasuhuko ordering ‘Interahamwe’ militiamen to kill the girl after she tried to escape. 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.
TK is the 11th prosecution witness in the so-called “Butare Trial” for six defendants, the largest trial in progress before the tribunal. All six are from Butare Province, one of the last areas to succumb to the 1994 violence, which claimed approximately 800,000 lives of ethnic Tutsi and politically moderate ethnic Hutu. An estimated 26,000 ethnic Tutsi were killed in Butare alone.
“The girl [Trifina] was screaming as she tried to escape from a group of refugees…Nyiramasuhuko ordered the girl killed. I saw Interahamwe cut her throat with a knife and hurl her into the waiting vehicle,” TK maintained, adding that Trifina’s head was hanging by a thread when she was thrown into the vehicle.
In her main evidence on Monday, TK alleged that Nyiramasuhuko and her son Arsene Ntahobali, also accused, made three trips to transport Tutsi refugees to an unknown destination to be killed. She claimed that Nyiramasuhuko rode in the vehicle carrying the refugees, driven by Ntahobali and escorted by militiamen.
Poupart challenged TK’s testimony, arguing that the witness contradicted her written statement made on 12 November 1998, where she did not mention Trifina’s presence at the governor’s office. “…And that’s why I’m here [in court] to testify about what I know happened during the genocide,” she responded.
Poupart told the court that TK made four different statements, the contents of which do not tally her testimony made during examination in chief. The attorney said the four statements were made on 17 December 1996, 22 January 1997, 21 November 1997 and 23 April 1998, respectively.
“Do you remember if any member of your family was there when you were making the statements?” Poupart asked. “I can’ remember whether there were other members of my family,” TK answered.
The six defendants in the trial are: Nyiramasuhuko and her son Ntahobali, who is a former militia leader; 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 continues before Trial Chamber II of the ICTR, comprising Judges William Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Winston Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho and Arlette Ramarason of Madagascar.