KIGALI - The Finnish judiciary, sitting in Kigali, yesterday began hearing from witnesses in the Genocide trial of Francois Bazaramba.
The team is expected to spend six weeks in the country interviewing dozens of witnesses, ten of whom are Burundian nationals.
Led by Chief Judge Lars Karlsson, the team consists of Judges Vesa Komulainen and Mikael Selander, State Prosecutor Raija Toiviainen, District Prosecutors Leena Koivuniemi and Tom Laitinen and a secretary Petra Spring Reiman.
Two Finnish defence lawyers are also present.
On the first day of the hearings, the prosecution witness, Viatuer Kambanda, who was in prison for Genocide related crimes for seven and a half years, was grilled on several subjects including his lifestyle in jail, the availability of food and water including visits from friends and family.
The hearing is being heard in Finnish, French and Kinyarwanda, something the Finnish State Prosecutor Raija Toiviainen said is challenge.
“Of course translating (from language to language) in such a case is challenging, but in this particular case, we have no choice,” she said.
Asked about how long the proceedings would take, Toiviainen was non - committal.
“We don’t know how long it will take, but we may be in Rwanda for one month and two weeks,” she said.
Referring to the witness, Ville Holkkala, who is part of the Bazaramba defence team, said that based on yesterday’s proceedings, he could not determine how the next thirty days would go.
“I don’t want to speculate on how this (proceedings) will end, but he has answered some questions consistently and others quite contradictorily,” he said.
Holkkala also noted that of the twenty five defence witnesses they would present, ten of them are Burundians who were living in Rwanda at the time of the genocide while others are Rwandans living in the Diaspora.
At the time of the genocide, Bazaramba was a Baptist Church pastor in the community of Nyakizu, in the Southern Province.
He is believed to have planned and carried out the massacre of more than 5000 people who were trying to escape from the atrocities.
Bazaramba arrived in Finland in 2003, where he sought asylum. In April 2007, he was arrested in reaction to an arrest warrant issued by the Rwanda National Public Prosecutions Authority.
On conviction, Bazaramba faces life imprisonment.
The team is expected today to conduct a field visit to Nyakizu, a village in the Southern Province where the defendant is accused of having committed the atrocities during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
It is estimated that the trial will cost the Finnish government € one million (Approx. Rwf 825m).