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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 November, 2003, 12:57 GMT
Key Rwandan genocide trial begins
Former health minister Casimir Bizimungu
The ministers are accused of organising the genocide
Four former Rwandan ministers have gone on trial, charged with masterminding the killing of some 800,000 people in the 1994 genocide.

Prosecutor Paul Ng'Arua told the court the ministers blazed a "path to hell" for the minority Tutsi population.

The four men are accused of being in charge of militia that systematically slaughtered ethnic Tutsis.

The United Nations tribunal, in the Tanzanian city of Arusha, is keen to respond to charges of inefficiency.

Former doctor

Prosecution lawyer Paul Ng'Arua told the court the prosecution would show that wherever the ministers went "they were soon followed by blood-letting and displacement of Tutsi populations."

The court was shown video footage of the four defendants being sworn in as interim ministers in 1994, interspersed with images of genocide, piles of bodies and militia men wielding machetes.

The interim government had taken power in April 1994 after a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down, helping to spark the violence.

Some skulls of Rwandans massacred in the 1994 genocide

Among the defendants is former Health Minister Casimir Bizimungu, a 52-year-old former doctor.

He is accused of travelling overseas to buy weapons for the militias with government funds and was arrested in Kenya in February 1999.

The others are the former civil service minister Prosper Mugiraneza, former trade minister Justin Mugenzi and foreign minister Jerome Bicamumpaka.

All four have pleaded innocent to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Slow justice

Rwanda has expressed its anger at the tribunal's lack of results in prosecuting the chief perpetrators of genocide, given the resources at their disposal.

Judge Lloyd Williams of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Where there is poverty there is no justice
Blessing Ruzengwe

"It has had no impact in our country. Few people know about it, let alone care," Rwanda's Attorney General Gerald Gahima told BBC News Online.

After spending over half a billion dollars and with more than 800 staff, the tribunal has achieved only 12 convictions in eight years.

A new chief prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, 52, from The Gambia, was appointed two months ago, to take sole charge in Arusha from Carla del Ponte.

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