Arusha, May 2nd, 2000 (FH) - The defence lawyer for former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema said last week he was demanding the disclosure of a confidential UN memorandum on the death of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana. Bagilishema's French counsel François Roux said he was filing a request to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to this effect.

1 min 45Approximate reading time

The court has put the controversial document under seal on the orders of its South African president Navanethem Pillay. Bagilishema was mayor of Mabanza (Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda) during the 1994 genocide. He is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. The trial resumed last Tuesday at the ICTR with presentation of the defence case. "This trial cannot continue unless you publicly submit to the debate all the documents at your disposal" relating to the death of President Habyarimana (Hutu) on April 6th 1994," Roux told the court. The shooting down of Habyarimana's 'plane over Kigali was the event that sparked the genocide, in which up to one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died. Roux said the UN memorandum pointed the finger explicitly at members of the current Tutsi-led Rwandan régime. "No-one could have been unaware of the consequences of throwing a lighted match into a country which had already become a powder-keg," he commented, and asked the judges to consider the implications of this. It is still not known who shot down Habyarimana's 'plane, although it was widely believed that the attackers were Hutu extremists opposed to power sharing with the Rwandan Patriotic Front (Tutsi rebel army, now in power in Rwanda). However, Canadian newspaper The National Post revealed on March 1st the existence of a former UN investigator's report suggesting the attack could have been organized by the current Rwandan president Paul Kagame. The report was subsequently found in the UN's archives and sent to the ICTR, where President Pillay announced on April 7th that she had placed it under seal. Pillay said the document was a 3-page memorandum prepared by former ICTR prosecution investigator Michael Hourigan, "on his own initiative". "At the time he wrote it," Pillay said, "Mr. Hourigan was working for the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). The memo was therefore an internal and confidential matter for the OIOS and was not sent to the ICTR. "The National Post said three Tutsi informants revealed to the UN that they were part of an elite strike team that assassinated the Hutu president in 1994 and that the operation was carried out "under the overall command of Paul Kagame", now the interim president of Rwanda. The paper said former UN Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour was told of this in 1997, but changed her mind about pursuing the matter and closed down investigations into the 'plane crash. AT/BM/JC/FH (BS%0502e)