The trial of a top Rwandan genocide suspect, a former army captain nicknamed the "Butcher of Butare", began Monday before the UN tribunal trying masterminds of the 1994 mass killings.
By Thijs Bouwknegt
Captain Idelphonse Nizeyimana is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes which he denied in earlier hearings after his arrest and transfer to the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2009.
The prosecutor has presented Nizeyimana (48) as being part of the inner circle of former president Juvenal Habyarimana. At the time of his alleged crimes he was second-in-command of a military school in Butare.
"There are myriad examples of Captain Nizeyimana ordering those under his influence to attack, kill and rape civilians identified as Tutsi," Drew White from the prosecutor's office said.
He said all the crimes Nizeyimana stands accused of were committed in the southern town of Butare in April and May 1994 and that he would call on both victims and colleagues of the accused to testify.
Among the victims, a woman known as ZAR to protect her identity "who was a servant in the home of Queen Rosalie Gicanda will describe how 10 soldiers arrived in a vehicle, communicated by radio and took the Gicanda family away," said White.
Rosalie Gicanda was a traditional Tutsi queen.
Another witness, referred to as ZAP "was part of that family, as the granddaughter of Queen Rosalie Gicanda," he continued.
"She too describes how the soldiers arrived at Gicanda's home, abducted them at gunpoint, drove them [...] to a rural area where the soldiers ordered everyone out of the car, and while the group was saying prayers, the soldiers shot at them."
He said that witness ZAP saw that Rosalie Gicanda had been shot while she herself was wounded but survived.
“He (Nizeyimana) exercised substantial power, authority and influence amongst all FAR soldiers, the Interahamwe and other militia and armed civilians in the region beyond his military rank,” said White.
According to the prosecutor, Nizeyimana could have exercised his authority and influence to save lives of Rwandan citizens, but chose to do otherwise, accepting the collective genocidal philosophy that extended through Rwanda.
The prosecutor's representative said "the accused was at all times aware that the attacks were part of a broader widespread or systematic attack on the Tutsi civilian population" and he used his authority as an officer and a leader to actively undermine public order.
In his brief reply, Nizeyimana lawyer told the chamber that the defence would contest all factual allegations against his client.
After the opening statements, the prosecution called its first witness codenamed ZEB to start giving the evidence.
Nizeyimana was captured in October 2009 in Uganda.He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.