Arusha, September 9, 2002(HE) After a week of heated debate between the prosecution and the defence, American historian Alison Des Forges, finally began testifying in the high-profile case involving four former military officers before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The officers grouped in the 'Military Trial' are former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet) Théoneste Bagosora and three ex-senior commanders in the former Rwandan army, all of whom have denied genocide charges.

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The three officers are Anatole Nsengiyumva, Aloys Ntabakuze and Gratien Kabiligi. Defence objections to Des Forges's testimony as an expert and technical matters, took up most of the proceedings last week and part of the hearing was held in camera. Defence counsel took issue with the prosecution's decision to start their case with an expert witness. "We're just going to be bogged down, marred down because of a strategy they (prosecution) chose," said Bagosora's co-counsel, Canadian Paul Skolnik. Des Forges was proposed as the first prosecution witness when the case resumed on September 2nd. The defence teams argued that she was not qualified to testify on issues specific to the matters affecting their respective clients. However, the prosecution argued that she has extensive experience on the Rwandan situation and the court allowed her to testify. Des Forges is a Senior Advisor (Africa Division) for the human rights group Africa Watch. She has also authored a book, "Leave None To Tell The Story," on the Rwandan genocide. At the start of her testimony, Des Forges indicated that Leon Mugesera [a former university don turned politician] made a speech in 1992 that "prepared the ground for the violence that occurred in 1994. " Mugesera, she said, was the Vice President of the MRND political party in Gisenyi province, and his was an important post as Gisenyi was the "home turf" of former President Juvènal Habyarimana. Des Forges said that the import of Mugesera's speech was that a notable high-ranking officer, (Chief of Staff for the Rwandan Army); Colonel Laurent Serubuga was in attendance although officers were not allowed membership in political parties. "It is noteworthy that Colonel Serubuga was in attendance and indeed on the platform because at that time officers were prohibited from membership in political parties," she said. She added that his presence was a sign of violation of this prohibition. The witness also told the court of documents authored by military personal, which underlined the identity between the Tutsi civilians and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). She said the aim was to have reliable 'locals' spying on the Tutsis said to be associated with the RPF. Des Forges continues with her testimony on Tuesday 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-0909e)