Arusha, February 21, 2003 (FH) - The trial of former Rwandan Minister for Higher Education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda was adjourned on February 19th, to April 28th before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Since the trial resumed on January 13th after the endoftheyear judicial break, twentythree defence witnesses have testified.

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Kamuhanda is charged with eight counts including genocide, complicity in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and murder. These crimes were allegedly committed in his native Gikomero commune (Kigali province, central Rwanda). The prosecution accuses him of personally leading attacks by soldiers and Interahmwe Hutu militias against Tutsi civilians who had taken refuge in the protestant parish compound at Gikomero and in the school attached to it. During the session, Kamuhanda's lead counsel Aicha Conde of Guinea told the chamber that the intention of the defence was to prove that Kamuhanda was not in Gikomero during the April 1994 genocide as claimed by the prosecution. She added that the defence also wanted to show that it was not possible for Kamuhanda to go to Gikomero because the routes from Kigali to Gikomero were war zones. Another issue the defence raised in the presentation of their evidence was Kamuhanda's political influence. They wanted to show that Kamuhanda was notan influential member of the MRND, the ruling political party at the time of the genocide. Kamuhanda never visited Gikomero during the genocideThe majority of the twentythree defence witnesses claimed that Kamuhanda never visited Gikomero commune during the genocide. Most of them were from Gikomero and argued that they would have seen him if he had gone there because he was a public figure. Kamuhanda's sister, Xaviera Nyiraminani, one of the few defence witnesses who did not conceal her identity to testify, told the chamber that her brother was not in Gikomero in April 1994 when Tutsis were killed at the parish. " I can confirm that Kamuhanda never came to Gikomero on April 12th 1994", the witness said. Nyiraminani further added that she last saw Kamuhanda in Gikomero, when he made a brief visit to his ailing mother during Easter Sunday on April 3rd 1994 before he proceeded to Lake Muhazi where the family residence was. Another witness dubbed GPG, who knew Kamuhanda personally, claimed that the minister was not in his native commune during the attack at the parish on April 12th 1994. "Kamuhanda was not at the site of killings. Some of those who participated in the crime are known and are in prison," the witness stated. GPG further defended Kamuhanda saying that "If he had come to Gikomero during the genocide, I would have known given his position. The population would have been aware and they would have mentioned him," the witness indicated. The same version was given by a witness dubbed GPR. He testified that Kamuhanda was not among the attackers at the parish. " I did not hear people mention Kamuhanda's name. If he had come to Gikomero during the genocide, the people would have said so," GPG stated. The witness who claimed to have witnessed the attack lived near the Gikomero Parish. Impossible to get to GikomeroAnother line taken by the defence was that Kamuhanda could not have traveled from Kigali to Gikomero because the routes were then combat zones. Two witnesses, RGS and Laurent Hitimana, who lived in Kigali with Kamuhanda testified that the former Minister did not go to Gikomero because the RPF rebels had seized the roads leading to the commune. They said most people in Kigali fled towards Gitarama when the war broke out because there was no fighting there and that for one to travel to Gikomero from Kigali one had to be a member of he RPF since their (the RPF) troops had taken over the routes leading there. RGS and Hitimana used maps to show the routes, which were not accessible due to the fighting between the RPF and government soldiers. Another witness supported their evidence. VPG also stated that Kamuhanda could not have gone to Gikomero for the same reason. "It was not possible for Kamuhanda to go to Gikomero," VPG argued The witness said he visited Kamuhanda at his home in Kigali on April 9th and 10th 1994 and that they later fled together to Gitarama. No influence in the MRNDKamuhanda's political influence was another important issue the defence chose to deal with. Through the testimony of Kamuhanda's close friends and politicians, they tried to show that Kamuhanda was not an influential member of the MRND political party during the genocide. The prosecution alleges that Kamuhanda was an important member of the MRND and also an advisor to interim president Théodore Sindikubwabo before he was appointed a minister on May 25th 1994. Kamuhanda was also part of the Rwandan interim government in place during the genocide. The prosecution accuses Kamuhanda of planning and implementing with other leaders a strategy to exterminate Tutsi civilians and Hutu opponents, so as to keep themselves in power. But the defence argues that the indictment is wrong in stating that, before becoming a minister, Kamuhanda was an advisor to interim president Théodore Sindikubwabo. One of the witnesses, VPG, stated that Kamuhanda was a member of MRND "just like other members" adding that "he had no role". VPG, who was also a member of the MRND, said that Kamuhanda did not have any capacity to influence the party. He recalled having attended an MRND rally with Kamuhanda in Kayanga commune in August 1993 where the former minister was only introduced to the crowd as a one of the intellectuals of Gikomero commune. According to VPG, Kamuhanda only spoke for two minutes. In his speech, VPG explained, Kamuhanda did not make any remark inciting Hutus against Tutsis, contrary to allegations by the prosecution. Two prosecution witnesses accused Kamuhanda of having made an inciting speech in the rally asking the population not to worry about the Tutsis because they would be dealt with (killed). Another witness to the defence case was Augustin Karera. A former adviser in the Ministry of Higher Education when Kamuhanda was a minister, Karera reiterated the sentiments of VPG and stated that Kamuhanda was not an official in the MRND. "Kamuhanda did not hold any official position in the party," Karera said. Karera added that although Kamuhanda was a member of the MRND, his association with the party did not play any role in his elevation as aMinister for Higher Education in May 1994. Closed sessionsTrial Chamber II heard the testimonies of twntythree defence witnesses in a short period of time (this session lasted twentytwo days) and sat in closed session for ten days. Evidence of seven defence witnesses was entirely taken behind closed doors. The rules of procedure and evidence of ICTR provide that a trial chamber may order that proceedings be held in closed session for reasons of public order or morality, safety, security or nondisclosure of the identity of a victim or witness, and the protection of the interests of justice. The defence plans to call a maximum of five more witnesses when the trial resumes on April 28th. The trial is before Trial Chamber II composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho)PJ/CE/FH (KH0221e)