Arusha, June 2nd, 2000 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has rejected the request of a former Rwandan military leader that it order an inquiry into the death of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana. In a decision of June 1st, Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR said that the defence counsel for Gratien Kabiligi, a former Brigadier General in the Rwandan army, had failed to prove either a causal link or a legal basis for such an investigation.

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Kabiligi is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. His lawyer, Jean Yaovi Degli of Togo, had argued that a thorough and impartial investigation into Kabiligi's alleged crimes must include an investigation into the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane, as this was the trigger for subsequent massacres in Rwanda. Degli said his client's indictment made specific reference to the April 6th, 1994 downing of the plane as the trigger for the masssacres, and that knowing its cause was therefore fundamental to a clear understanding of the planning and execution of the killings, of which his client stands accused. But the court rejected his arguments. "Defence Counsel failed to establish any causal link between the requested investigation into the responsibility for the plane crash and the acts and omissions which form the basis of the charges against Kabiligi in the indictment," it said. "Moreover," says the decision, "Defence Counsel failed to establish a legal basis on which the Trial Chamber could order supplementary investigations by the Prosecutor in this case. The issue is one solely for the discretion of the Prosecutor. Degli had argued that the court could alternatively order such an investigation from one or several UN member states or competent organizations such as Interpol. But this request was also rejected. "Defence Counsel did not establish a basis on which the Trial Chamber should order various states and institutions to undertake an investigation into the plane crash," it said. The court has not yet ruled on a separate motion by Degli for release of a sealed report related to the crash. The report, written by a former UN investigator in 1997, was sent to the ICTR after it was leaked to a Canadian newspaper, the National Post. According to the National Post, the report suggests the current Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his pro-Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) could have been behind the downing of Habyarimana's plane. Until recently it was widely believed that the 'plane was shot down by Hutu extremists opposed to power sharing with the RPF. Several other ICTR detainees have submitted requests to have the document released. The ICTR President has put it under seal, saying it will be up to individual Trial Chambers to decide if it should be released in a given case. JC/DO/FH (ML%0602)