rwa005 Rwandan bishop pleads 'not guilty' to genocide


Rwanda genocide
Rwandan bishop pleads 'not guilty' to genocide

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afrol News, 3 May - Samuel Musabyimana (44), a Rwandan former Anglican bishop, yesterday pleaded "not guilty" to four counts of genocide and crimes against humanity for his role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, according to United Nations tribunal in Arusha that issued the indictment. 

In a statement released at its headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said Samuel Musabyimana, was wearing his episcopal robes, when entering the plea when he made his initial appearance before Judge William Sekule. 

Mr. Musabyimana, who was Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Shyogwe, Gitarama prefecture, is alleged to have participated in a campaign of extermination against Tutsi civilians and to have facilitated their killing by specifically instructing subordinates to assist soldiers and militias to do so. The crimes are alleged to have been committed in April and May 1994 against about 500 Tutsis who had sought refuge at his diocese following the escalation of the Rwandan conflict in Gitarama prefecture. 

- On the arrival of refugees at the Shyogwe Diocese the Anglican Bishop instructed his subordinate to register them according to their ethnic groups, according to a statement from the Tribunal. "The list of refugees was later used to select Tutsi refugees who were taken to nearby sites to be killed. The Bishop is also said to have paid the militias who carried out the killings."

The indictment also alleges that Mr. Musabyimana had requested firearms to protect the diocese, but that the weapons were later distributed, with the Bishop's knowledge, to militias and others manning roadblocks in the diocese where they would be used to kill Tutsis. 

On or about 7 May 1994 soldiers and militias arrived at Shyogwe Diocese aboard a red pick-up vehicle to transport civilian Tutsi refugees to the killing sites. "On that day Bishop Samuel Musabyimana was present and, addressing the soldiers and militias, publicly stated that he did not oppose the killing of Tutsis, but that he did not want killings at the Diocese and that the Tutsis should be taken to Kabgayi to be killed," the indictment states. 

After entering his plea, the accused complained to the Court about the manner of his arrest and said that the charges against him were serious and above all most unjust. Bishop Musabyimana was arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, on 26 April.

Addressing himself to all his fellow bishops of the Anglican communion, in particular the Archbishop of Canterbury (England), to all Christians of his diocese of Shyogwe and to his family he said that he was innocent of the charges against him, that his conscience was clear and that he needed their prayers. 

Judge Sekule assured him of his rights as laid down in the Statute of the Tribunal as well as the principle of the presumption of innocence for accused people appearing before the Tribunal. He told the accused that he could raise any issue pertinent to his case in motions, which he can file after the initial appearance. 

Bishop Musabyimana, who was born on 6 July 1956 in Mwendo commune Kibuye prefecture. After his arrest in Nairobi, he was transferred immediately to the Detention Facility of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha. 

Musabyimana had originally been arrested by the South African authorities on immigration charges in September 2000 and deported to Kenya, after South African police took the erroneous decision not to send him directly to Arusha. Arriving in Kenya, Musabyimana managed to escape, only to be tracked down by Kenyan police in April.

Between 750,000 and 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide, which now is known to have been carefully planned by the extremist Hutu government and its colaborators. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is targeting the main responsibles for the genocide, and has, among others, so far convicted Jean Kambanda, former Prime Minister of Rwanda. 46 individual cases are up for the Tribunal. 

The church and the genocide
Rwanda, which before the genocide on several occasions has been called "the most Christian country in Africa", experienced treason from several of its religious leaders. Many religious leaders however opened their churches to the refugees. 

The genocide shook all the Christian churches, particularly the Catholic Church, to which the majority of Rwandese belonged. Not only were Christian members of the congregations of every single denomination in Rwanda responsible for the most appalling atrocities, but many massacres took place in the parishes where the targets of the genocide sought sanctuary, according to a report from African Rights. 

Even more damaging to the Church was the behaviour of some of its leaders. Like the Catholics, many in the hierarchy of the Protestant churches had close links with the regime. 

Many church leaders have acknowledged that the Church in Rwanda failed as an institution, although individual clergy showed immense courage, risking their lives to save those of others. "They have been less willing to comment upon the specific accusations against certain clergymen," according to African Rights. 

The Church in Rwanda was deeply divided by the end of the genocide, with most of its leaders fleeing the country following the military defeat of the former government.

Source:  Based on ICTR, African Rights and afrol archives 

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