Rwanda genocide: Verdict due for female former minister

Rwandan soldier at the genocide memorial in Bisesero, Rwanda
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of people died in the genocide

Judges at the UN-backed court for Rwanda are to hand down a verdict for one of the first women charged with genocide before an international court.

Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, 65, was a government minister in 1994 in Rwanda when 800,000 people - mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group - were killed.

Along with four former local officials and her own son, she is accused of organising massacres as well as the rape of women and girls.

She denies all the charges.

Rape charges

Mrs Nyiramasuhuko was Rwanda's minister for family and women's development at the time of the genocide.

The prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) accuses her of taking part in the government decision to create militias throughout the country. Their mission was to wipe out the Tutsi population as fast as possible.

Mrs Nyiramasuhuko is accused of ordering and assisting in the massacres in her home district of Butare in southern Rwanda. Along with her son, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, who was in his early 20s at the time, she is also accused of organising the kidnap and rape of Tutsi women and girls.

Butare had for long been home to a large mix of Hutu and Tutsi people, and there was some resistance there when the orders to carry out the massacres were given.

The government of which Mrs Nyiramasuhuko was a member dismissed the most senior district official - a man who opposed the genocide. He was never seen again.

When he was replaced, the massacres began and militias were flown in from Kigali to assist.

The former minister is accused of requesting military assistance to proceed with the massacres in her home commune.

The prosecution says along with her son she often forced people to undress completely before loading them onto trucks and taking them to their deaths.

Mrs Nyiramasuhuko is on trial with several other senior officials from the area. Although she is the only woman on trial for genocide before the ICTR, many other women have been convicted of genocide in Rwandan courts.

Two nuns were found guilty of participating in the genocide by a court in Belgium.

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