Rwanda: Substantive trial of genocide suspect Rutunga set for July 5

The High Court for International Crimes Chamber (HCCIC), Nyanza District, will on Tuesday, July 5, begin the substantive hearing of the trial in the case of Venant Rutunga, who is suspected of crimes of genocide.

Rutunga, 72, is charged with three counts: genocide, complicity in the commission of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity.

Rutunga, who was the former regional director of ISAR Rubona, an agricultural research institute located in the southern district of Huye, formerly known as Butare prefecture, was extradited from the Netherlands on July 26 from the ‘last year.

He first appeared in court on August 12 last year, where he was asking for bail.

However, on August 17, the court denied him bail on the grounds that there are sufficient reasonable grounds to suspect him of having committed the crimes for which he is being prosecuted.

According to the prosecution, he would have committed the alleged crimes mainly between 26 and 30 April 1994 in Butare (current district of Huye) where he worked.

During a bail hearing, prosecutors exposed to the court several actions of the defendant during the genocide that led to the death of many people, in particular former employees of the institution he headed.

Among these, they accused him of having participated in the murder of Epaphrodite Kalisa and George Ndamaje, two Tutsi employees of ISAR, when he ordered the gendarmes to hunt and kill them.

Prosecutors also pinned him on, among other things, an incident where he allegedly drove and went to meet the then Prefect of Butare, to request armed police to help kill Tutsis who had successfully defended themselves against the Interahamwe, among others.

In his defense however, Rutunga denied the charges, saying he did not commit the crimes he is accused of.

He said that while he knew Ndamage and Kalisa, he never participated in their murder, saying those who killed them had been tried and convicted.

He admitted to having gone to meet the prefect of Butare and to asking for police, but the aim was not to kill Tutsis, but rather to “defend ISAR from attacks by intruders” because he had learned that there were had an imminent attack that was going to happen among other things.

Rutunga is currently detained in Nyarugenge prison commonly known as Magagere.

Elna M. Lemons