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Trial begins for ex-military school commander

The trial of a former commander of Rwanda's school for non-commissioned military officers, Ecole Sous-officers, Col Tharcisse Muvunyi, began on Monday at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

The prosecution opened by claiming that Muvunyi incited the killing of Tutsis, acts of rape and sexual assault on females of various ages.

Muvunyi, 52, was also commander of military operations for the Butare and Gikongoro regions between April and June 1994, at the height of the genocide in which at least 937,000 people died, according to Rwandan government estimates.

The tribunal's prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, told the Tanzanian-based court in the northern town of Arusha that Muvunyi was part of government delegations that went from commune to commune inciting the public to kill Tutsis.

Muvunyi has denied all five counts against him, which include genocide or complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity - rape and other inhumane acts.

"The prosecution will show that the speeches made by the accused and other members of his delegation during these public rallies and meetings were so incendiary and were intended to prompt - and did prompt - the local Hutu population in such communes to hunt for and kill Tutsi persons, particularly women and children who had previously been spared in earlier waves of killings," Jallow said.

He said the prosecution had evidence to prove that Muvunyi also gave orders to soldiers at the military school to abduct and kill Tutsi patients and refugees at the University Hospital in Butare and the Benebikira Convent at Huye. Jallow said the prosecution would also prove that Muvunyi was seen at roadblocks, giving the impression that he endorsed the killings.

Muvunyi was arrested in the United Kingdom on 5 February 2000 and transferred to the UN detention facility in Arusha on 30 October 2000. He made his initial appearance at the tribunal on 8 November 2000 and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Rwandan genocide began following the downing of a jetliner carrying the late president, Juvenal Habyarimana, near the capital, Kigali, on 6 April 1994.

The UN Security Council set up the tribunal later in 1994 to bring to trial the perpetrators of the genocide. The tribunal has, so far, handed down 23 judgements, among them three acquittals.

Trials continue for 25 genocide suspects, while 18 other detainees await trial in Arusha.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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