Rwanda: Witnesses Pin Philippe Hategekimana on Role in Genocide

Numerous witnesses in the trial of genocide suspect Philippe Hategekimana, also known as 'Biguma,' have provided testimony regarding his involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, primarily in Nyanza District, Southern Province.

The trial is currently taking place at the Cour d'assises de Paris and commenced on May 10, with an expected conclusion on June 30.

A former co-worker of Hategekimana, a 54-year-old woman, testified that his decisions played a significant role in the Tutsi killings during the Genocide. The witness recounted observing the suspect transporting the late bourgmestre of Ntyazo, Tharcisse Nyagasaza, before his execution.

The witness also recalled Hategekimana using offensive language towards Tutsis, referring to them as 'dogs.'

Cyriaque Habyarabatuma, a Genocide convict and former Major in the gendarmerie in Butare, testified in court, describing Biguma as an extremist officer and indicating that he had heard of his involvement in the killing of bourgmestre Nyagasaza.

Erasme Ntazinda, the Mayor of Nyanza District, testified as a contextual witness, shedding light on the district's dark past, the atrocities committed in the area, and their enduring impact. He also mentioned that the discovery and proper burial of Genocide victims are ongoing.

Regarding the death of bourgmestre Nyagasaza, Ntazinda explained that, initially, Tutsis would flee to Burundi at the onset of the Genocide. However, Nyagasaza was apprehended and brought back by police officers, including Biguma, before being killed.

Among the witnesses called to testify were Augustin Ndindiliyimana, former Chief of Staff of the Gendarmerie at the national level, and Father Hormisdas Nsengimana, the rector of Collège Christ-Roi secondary school in Nyanza Sector, Huye district.

Father Nsengimana had been indicted for alleged involvement in a group of Hutu extremists responsible for planned and targeted attacks in Nyanza Sector.

Prosecutors charged Nsengimana with direct and superior responsibility for genocide, murder as a crime against humanity, and extermination as a crime against humanity. However, in 2009, an ICTR Trial Chamber acquitted him of all charges, citing insufficient factual or legal basis.

The court anticipates testimony from more than 100 witnesses over a two-month period, representing both sides.

Hategekimana, 66 years old, stands accused of orchestrating the murder of Tutsis and establishing roadblocks to intercept and execute Tutsis in the hills of Nyamure and Nyabubare, as well as the former Ntyazo, Nyabisindu, and Rusatira communes, all situated in southern Rwanda.

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