Arusha, May 24th, 2000 (FH) - Two former Rwandan military leaders accused of genocide on Wednesday asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to release a UN report and memorandum on the death of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. Defence counsels Jean Yaovi Degli of Togo and Clemente Monterosso of Canada, acting for Gratien Kabiligi and Aloys Ntabakuze respectively, told the court that these documents were indispensable to the defence.

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At the time of the genocide in Rwanda, Kabiligi was head of military operations in the former Rwandan army, while Ntabakuze was head of the para-commando battalion of the same army. The defence pointed out that it was the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane on April 6th, 1994 that sparked the genocide. The mass killings left some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead in less than three months. Monterosso said there was a direct link between the death of the president and his client's indictment, which says that: "On or about 8 April 1994, the Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion, Aloys Ntabakuze, ordered his subordinates to avenge the death of President Habyarimana by killing Tutsis". Until recently, most people believed that the plane was downed by Hutu extremists in Habyarimana's own circle, who were opposed to power-sharing with Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) Tutsi rebels. However, documents leaked to Canadian newspaper the National Post earlier this year suggest that the RPF could have been behind the attack. According to the National Post, Tutsi informants told a former UN investigator, Michael Hourigan, in 1997 that Paul Kagame, now president of Rwanda, masterminded the attack. Hourigan produced a memorandum, and later a report when he was working for the UN's Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) in New York. Following the leak, the UN found the report and sent it to the ICTR, whose president has put it under seal. There has been no explanation as to why the information was not followed up. Degli told the court that "if it was not extremist Hutus who killed the president themselves to trigger the massacres, then the assassination has a whole different connotation". He said that if the massacres turned out to be a spontaneous reaction to the death of president Habyarimana, then the whole history of the genocide would have to be re-written. Nigerian prosecutor Chile Eboe-Osuji argued that the defence had failed to prove that the report was essential material evidence for their clients' cases. He also argued that the memorandum was an internal document, and that under ICTR rules, the Office of the Prosecutor was not obliged to disclose it, or even to inform the defence of its existence. Eboe-Osuji suggested that the defence would do better to wait for the results of an international investigation into the crash by French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière. That inquiry, he said, "may contain all the information they think they need. But to come here and waste everyone's time arguing this motion is not on". Judge Bruguière is investigating on behalf of the families of three French crew who also died in the crash with Habyarimana and former president of Burundi Cyprien Ntaryamira. Several other ICTR detainees are also demanding that the Tribunal release the documents on the crash and/or open an investigation. Joseph Nzirorera, former National Assembly chairman, is scheduled to present a motion to this effect on May 30th. Former mayors Ignace Bagilishema (Mabanza commune, western Rwanda) and Jean-Paul Akayesu (Taba, central Rwanda) have already asked that they be given the report. AT/JC/FH (ML%0524e )