Arusha, September 19, 2002 (FH) - The defence in the case referred to as the 'Military Trial' on Thursday started the cross-examination of the first prosecution witness, historian and human rights activist Alison Des Forges of the United States. The witness, who took the stand when the case resumed on September 2nd, took three days to start her chief evidence owing to debates between the defence and the prosecution.

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Her testimony started at a slow pace due to numerous defence objections and it was only on Wednesday that the prosecution completed questions on her chief evidence. Des Forges is testifying as an expert witness in the trial involving four former Rwandan military officers, who the prosecution alleges were key figures in organising the 1994 Rwanda genocide. They are: Théoneste Bagosora, former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet), Anatole Nsengiyumva, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Rwandan Armed Forces; Aloys Ntabakuze, a former Major and Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion in the Rwandan Armed Forces, and who is jointly charged with Gratien Kabiligi, a former general in the General Staff of the Rwandan Armed Forces. Prosecution maintains that following the plane crash that killed former President Juvénal Habyarimana, on April 6th, 1994, Bagosora assumed "de facto" control of military and political affairs. According to the prosecution, Bagosora masterminded the ensuing genocide that claimed an estimated one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Before the defence could begin cross-questioning, the court adjourned at one point to deliberate on legal issues that spilled over from the proceedings on Wednesday afternoon. The issue involved an objection by Bagosora's defence, against the submission of certain prosecution documents that implicated their client. Counsel Raphael Constant of Martinique and Paul Skolnik of Canada are representing Bagosora. Bagosora's team is the first to cross-question the witness. Constant questioned Des Forges on her research methods while compiling details on the events in Rwanda. He also questioned her on a book she has written on the Rwanda genocide ("Leave None to Tell the Story"). "We spent a number of months trying to sort documents, made copies and left the originals to government officials," witness explained in part. She also added that they interviewed individuals as well and maintained confidentiality when this was requested of them. Some of the matters covered included historical issues as far back as the colonial period. Des Forges will continue with her testimony on Friday morning. The hearing 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. SW/FH (ML-0919e)