Arusha, September 2, 2002 (FH) - The trial of four former Rwandan military officers resumed on Monday with a debate on whether human rights activist, American Alison Des Forges should be accepted by the Tribunal as a prosecution expert witness. The Tribunal had not given a ruling by the end of the day.

1 min 49Approximate reading time

If accepted, Des Forges will be the first witness in this trial. The trial first started on April 2nd, but was soon adjourned until its resumption yesterday. 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 Truth," on the Rwandan genocide. She has testified in two other cases before the Tribunal namely: the trial of ex-mayor of Taba commune Jean Paul Akayesu, (serving sentence) and the trial referred to as the "Media Trial. "The 'Military Trial' groups genocide suspects, former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet) Théoneste Bagosora and three former senior commanders in the former Rwandan army: Anatole Nsengiyumva, Aloys Ntabakuze and Gratien Kabiligi. The four have denied genocide charges for crimes committed during the 1994 massacres in Rwanda. A significant difference between the hearing on Monday and when the prosecution opened its case in April was the presence of the accused in the trial Chamber. All four boycotted the opening of their case arguing their rights had been violated, as prosecution had not disclosed relevant documents to the defence teams. But all four were present this time round. The prosecution gave details on Des Forges's academic and other qualifications. The defence teams cross-questioned her on these, her competence (on military and other issues) and methodology in her research. "I have competence as a historian to describe military events - not weaponry, field strategy or other technical points," Des Forges replied to questions by defence counsel. The 'Military Trial' is considered one of the most important cases before the ICTR with the prosecution arguing that the four accused were involved in the intricate planning on extermination of Tutsis so that they could maintain Hutu power. The prosecution maintains that Bagosora, assumed "de facto" control of military and political affairs in Rwanda following the plane crash that killed former President Juvénal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntayramira on April 6th, 1994. Habyarimana's death plunged Rwanda into bloodshed in which an estimated One million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Bagosora's co-accused allegedly committed crimes including the training of militia groups and distribution of weapons during the 1994 events. Prosecution says the four men "unleashed a legion of ferocious demons throughout the country. "The hearing continues on Tuesday morning 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. The Chamber is expected to give its ruling on Des Forges's status as an expert witness. SW/FH (ML-0902e)