Witness begs not to look accused in the face
ARUSHA - A witness in the trial of Lieutenant Colonel, Ephrem Setako, a former Rwandan military officer accused of Genocde, refused to look in the face of the accused saying he could not look at “a killer in the face”.
Setako’s trial resumed yesterday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
At the time of adjournment in September last year, the prosecution had already fielded 12 witnesses and it is now continuing presenting more before the court.
Setako is facing six charges including Genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, charges he has denied.
The trial resumed with witness “SAF” accusing Setako of having attended a meeting in Gikondo, Kigali city with several high ranking military officers who included convicted Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, and that it is through that meeting that Tutsis were lured into abandoning their hideouts and thereafter killed.
The witness told the court that he was among the people who attended the meeting and that as Setako addressed the gathering; four people were being killed a short distance from where the meeting was taking place.
“I vividly recall the four people being killed by armed Interahamwe with machetes who had been brought by Setako and his other high ranking colleagues at that meeting. They were killed in front of the office of the prosecutor,” the witness said.
“SAF” further told the court that in his speech, Setako called on participants of the meeting to continue fighting the enemy (Tutsis) whom he described as ‘enemies of the country’.
The witness caused drama in the court when he at first turned down Prosecutor Ifeoma Ojemeni’s request to identify the accused on grounds that he ‘did not want to look at a killer in the face’.
The witness, who later identified the accused, requested the presiding judge and the prosecutor to save him from any emotional feelings.
“How would you feel Mister President when you are asked to look into the face a man who chopped off peoples’ heads? Anyway, I know him very well and I’ve seen him. He is putting on a suit with a white shirt and he is seated on the last row,” the witness said to the bemusement of several people in the public gallery.
Last year, a Genocide survivor, witness ‘SAQ’ also accused Setako of having made a speech at the communal office of Nkuli, in the Northern Province that called for the massacres of Tutsis.
At the opening of the trial in August last year, prosecutor Nigerian Ojemeni , who leads the prosecution team in the case, accused Setako of “having publicly and directly shown his hatred of Tutsis at meetings held before and in 1994”.
The former army officer was arrested in February 2004 in a centre for asylum applicants in the Netherlands and thereafter transferred to the Arusha-based UN detention facility.
Setako’s case is among the backlog of cases that ICTR still has to handle despite the fact that the UN Security Council has asked with insistence that it finishes the first instance trials by the end of this year.