Arusha, September 26, 2001 (FH) The lawyer for former Rwandan prefect and genocide suspect Emmanuel Bagambiki argued an alibi for his client during cross-examination of a witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday and Wednesday. The so-called Cyangugu trial of Bagambiki and two other accused was meanwhile adjourned to November 19th, to make room for another case.

1 min 43Approximate reading time

Bagambiki's Belgian lawyer Vincent Lurquin told the court that his client could not have been in Bugarama (44 kilometres from Cyangugu, southwest Rwanda) as protected witness "LAI" had claimed, because Bagambiki was chairing a high-level meeting at the prefect's office in Cyangugu. The witness had told the court that the day after the April 6th 'plane crash that killed the former president, Bagambiki and co-accused Lieutenant Samuel Imanishimwe went to Bugarama for a meeting with the population there. Bagambiki was prefect of Cyangugu at the time of the genocide. Imanishimwe was commander of Cyangugu military barracks. They are on trial with former Transport Minister André Ntagerura, who is also from Cyangugu and also accused of organizing the massacres there. At the Bugarama meeting, according to Witness LAI, Imanishimwe ordered soldiers not to oppose the Interahamwe (extremist Hutu milita) who were preparing to wipe out the Tutsis in the region. LAI said Imanishimwe even shot at one person himself. "I personally saw Bagambiki carrying an Uzi gun," LAI continued. Reacting to Lurquin's alibi argument, he said: "I know it as a Rwandan. If he (Lurquin) had been there at the time, he would have been able to tell the court. "Presiding judge Lloyd George Williams of Saint Kitts and Nevis intervened several times to calm the witness down, urging him to answer the questions. Lurquin also tried to demonstrate a number of contradictions between LAI's oral testimony and his previous statements to ICTR investigators. For example, the lawyer asked LAI to confirm that he had seen Bagambiki arrive in Bugarama on January 28th, 1994, aboard a helicopter full of weapons. These arms were allegedly used during the genocide that started just over two months later. In his testimony in chief, LAI had said the three accused arrived together in the helicopter, apparently contradicting an earlier version in which he said that Ntagerura arrived alone but that Bagambiki was among those who had gathered to welcome the minister. But the witness refuted any contradiction, saying the ICTR investigators had only asked him who was present. The case has been adjourned after the hearing of 41 prosecution witnesses. It is before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Williams (presiding), Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. The court is due next Monday to resume the case of former mayor Laurent Semanza. GA/AT/JC/PHD/FH (CY0926E)