Arusha, August 28, 2002 (FH) - The trial of four former senior military officers in Rwanda, regarded as one of the most important before the Tribunal will resume in September, and with a new person in charge of the prosecution team. Referred to as the 'Military Trial' the case groups genocide suspects, former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet) Théoneste Bagosora and three senior commanders in the former Rwandan army: Anatole Nsengiyumva, Aloys Ntabakuze and Gratien Kabiligi.

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They have all denied genocide charges for crimes committed during the 1994 massacres in Rwanda. This case carries a lot of weight as the prosecution maintains that the accused were key figures, involved in a deliberate and systematic plan to eliminate what they termed as the "enemy", according to the prosecution; namely, all Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were seen as the "accomplices" to the "enemy". The prosecution says that the accused were amongst a clique bent on maintaining Hutu power and they created a complex web (of horror and destruction) to achieve their goal. "This was deliberately contrived real life horror, and these men are some of the lead authors and actors of the horror in Rwanda in 1994. They unleashed a legion of ferocious demons throughout the country," prosecution further adds, on the role of the four accused in the genocide. Attorney Chile Eboe Osuji of Nigeria and Canada made the prosecution's opening statement when the case started on April 2nd, but American, BarbaraMulvaney, is now in charge of the case, the independent news agency Hirondelle confirmed on Tuesday. It is not immediately apparent what this change at this stage of the trial will herald for the case. Symbolic gymnasticsThe start of this long-awaited trial did not proceed as scheduled; proceedings started on the afternoon following a delay in the morning. All four accused refused to appear for the opening of their case, which had attracted international media attention and was attended by none other than the Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal, Swiss, Carla del Ponte. Defence teams registered their strong objections to the start of the trial terming it as a "/media show" and "symbolic gymnastics. "The defence teams told the Chamber that all the accused had said they would not come to court and that they "will be represented by their counsel". But prosecutor Osuji told the court that "they should be brought here any way possible. That is quite reasonable. "However, the defence teams were adamant; stating the accused are protesting delayed disclosure of documents and statements of prosecution witnesses. They will not be party to "an unfair trial," the counsel said. Raphael Constant of Martinique/France represents Bagosora, Nsengiyumva is presented by Kenyans Kennedy Ogetto and Otachi Bw'Omanwa, Ntabakuze by Canadians Clemente Monterosso and Andre Tremblay, and Kabiligi by Jean Degli of Togo and France and Silvia Olympio of France. However, the court allowed the prosecution to make its opening statement. ApocalypseIn the prosecution opening statement, the court heard the Carla del Ponte describe in a brief statement, the weight the four military officers wielded and the horror they unleashed in Rwanda. In the bulk of the statement presented by Osuji, the court heard that the main goal of the events was to defeat the "enemy in the battlefield, in the media and in the political arena. "He said the planning constituted such an intense and complex web that would baffle the common man at first glance. Osuji compared the accused Bagosora, to (Germany's Adolf) Hitler. 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 (on April 6th, 1994). Bagosora's indictment states that during the peace negotiations in Arusha in 1993, in which he participated, he was so openly opposed to the concessions made by the Rwandan government representative Boniface Ngulinzira the then Foreign Affairs Minister, that he left the negotiation table. Bagosora left Arusha saying that he was returning to Rwanda to "prepare the apocalypse. " On April 11th, 1994, Boniface Ngulinzira was assassinated by the military, the indictment further reads. Bagosora, 61, is a native of Giciye commune, Gisenyi province, northwest of Rwanda. On his part, Nsengiyumva a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Rwanda Armed Forces is alleged to have supervised the training of the MRND militia, (the Interahamwe) and that of the CDR militia (the impuzamugambi). Nsengiyumva, 52, hails from Satinsyi commune in Gisenyi. The other two accused are 48-year-old Ntabakuze and [who is jointly charged with ] Kabiligi, 51. Ntabakuze a former Major and Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion in the Rwandan Armed Forces was born in Karago commune, Gisenyi province. Kabiligi is a native of Kamembe commune, Cyangugu province, south west of Rwanda and a former general in the General Staff of the Rwandan Armed Forces. Kabiligi is alleged to have spoken in the presence of a group of Belgian Army officers and the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army, General Deogratias Nsabimana of the possibility of eliminating the RPF and the Tutsi within a short time. Ntabakuze is accused of supervising with the assistance of other officers, the training of militia groups. The prosecution also maintains that their subordinates (Kabiligi and Ntabakuze) massacred many Tutsis and moderate Hutus by way of pre-established lists amongst other things and with the collaboration of militia groups. Continued delaysA day after the opening of the military trial the flurry of activity was over, particularly for the visiting media. The opening of the case was followed by a status conference in camera and the case was adjourned. Another status conference was held in June again, in camera. prior to the scheduled resumption on September 2nd. Defence teams have argued that the trial has taken too long to proceed. Bagosora's lead counsel Constant for example filed a motion in April asking for provisional release of his client due to prolonged detention. It was denied. Constant has argued against what he calls the "abnormal and unreasonable" nature of his client's detention. He says it is illegal and against human dignity to hold an accused person for several years without trial. Bagosora was arrested on March 6th 1996 in Cameroon and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha on July 23rd, 1997. "Between his arrest and the opening of his trial, six years and one month have passed," says Constant, who blames the late start of the trial on the prosecution. Constant details the various delays in the start of the trial. He points out that prosecution requested a joint trial in 1998, as well as a presenting a motion modifying the indictment. For two years, to June 2000, the hearing did not start and the Tribunal deliberated on the two motions of the prosecutor. It is yet to be seen whether the actual proceedings will go ahead during the next hearing without the hitches that have been witnessed in the past. 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-0828e)