Arusha, December 10, 2003 (FH) -A former member of the Para-commando battalion of Kigali, Wednesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that Major Aloys Ntabakuze, the former commander of the battalion could not have given soldiers orders to kill Tutsis without the backing from higher authorities. The witness code-named "BC" to protect his identity, was a former member of the elite CRAP (Commandos de Recherches et d'Appui en Profondeur) unit within the battalion.

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He had earlier said in his testimony that immediately after the death of former president Habyarimana, Ntabakuze had ordered soldiers under his command to systematically kill all Tutsis. BC, the 33rd witness called by the prosecution, went on to say that he had been informed by a colleague that Ntabakuze had held a meeting at a place called Joli bois that night and that ordered them to systematically go from house to house and not to spare anyone, the old and the young alike, stated the witness. He said that all Tutsi dogsshould be exterminated. During cross examination by one of Ntabakuzes counsel, Paul Skolnick from Canada, the witness admitted not having been present when the orders were given because he had been detailed to guard the site where the presidents plane had crushed. He said that the battalion usually got orders from the army headquarters, and that an order as important as that like could only have been sanctioned from higher up. BC first appeared before the tribunal on December 1, but had to interrupt his testimony because he suddenly fell ill. He resumed testifying Wednesday. He had alleged during his first testimony that very early on the morning of April 7, they received instructions to ignore any sound of gunfire as it would be our soldiers doing the shooting. A few minutes later they heard lots of gunfire coming from the direction of Nyarugunga suburbs. The witness acknowledged not personally receiving orders from his commanding officer or seeing any member of the battalion killing Tutsis, but confirmed seeing many dead bodies where the Para-commandoes had been deployed. Where could the bodies have come from?he had asked. Major Aloys Ntabakuze, 54, is jointly accused with the former director of Cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora,62, the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi,52 and the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, 53. The prosecution considers Bagosora as the mastermindof the genocide. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway, Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. Earlier in the morning, the tribunal finished hearing the testimony of another protected witness, DA. The trial will continue Thursday with the auditioning of another witness. KN/AT/FH (ML'1210E)