Arusha November 18 , 2002 (FH)- Human Rights activist Alison Des Forges testifying before the International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda in the trial of four former military officers, told the Tribunal on Monday that a clandestine civilian defence programme was used to execute the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Des Forges an expert witness in the 'Military Trial' said civilians were armed from 1993 in a clandestine manner with the aim of carrying out the genocide.

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" The civil defence was meant to assassinate Tutsis," said Des Forges, adding that the programme was implemented in October 1993 with no official act formalising it. Des Forges, a Senior Advisor (Africa Division) for the Human Rights Watch who is the first prosecution witness said the move to arm civilians was not meant to help the soldiers but to kill Tutsis. She said political leaders close to former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana began to plan the civilian defence programme in 1993. This trial groups Théoneste Bagosora, former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet), and three others, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, Major Aloys Ntabakuze and General Gratien Kabiligi. They have pleaded not guilty to genocide charges for crimes committed during the 1994 massacres in Rwanda. Des Forges who was being cross-examined by Kabiligi's defence counsel Degli of Togo/France said the local administration recruited the civilians to be armed on territorial basis. Asked if she knew the people behind the civil defence programme, Des Forges said "there were people obviously behind that but I cannot name them because I do not have the kind of prove which allows me to name them. "She said Bagosora distributed unknown number of guns in Gisenyi Province and other 300 arms were distributed in other communes and provinces. She did not state when the arms were distributed. Des Forges will continue with her testimony on Tuesday. The trial is before ICTR's Trial Chamber Three composed of judges Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis, (presiding) Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. PJ/FH (ML-1118F)