Arusha, December 2, 2003 (FH) – A Belgian soldier who used to be part of the UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda) peacekeeping force in Rwanda testified today the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the trial of four senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR). Adjutant Didier Hutsebaut was a member of the second commando battalion of the Belgian contingent that was part of UNAMIR.

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The Belgian's main task was to protect dignitaries as well as act as escorts to representatives of the Rwandese Patriotic Front. He was called to testify before the previous witness could finish his testimony, because the latter, code-named BC to protect his identity suddenly fell sick. He is expected to resume giving evidence Wednesday. On April 6, 1994, the day when the presidential plane was brought down, the witness was based at the “Viking Villa” close to the ministers' quarters in Kimihurura. The soldier gave an account of how the home of an opposition leader next to Viking was attacked by members of the presidential guards. The home belonged to Felicien Ngango, vice-president of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), who, under the Arusha Peace accords, would have been the Speaker of Parliament. “Soldiers from our platoon were guarding Ngango's house when they came under siege from the republican guards. We went to evacuate them and the family but were refused access by the Rwandan soldiers”, said the witness, adding that after some negotiations they were let through on one condition:“They told us that only Belgians could leave the compound but Rwandans should remain. They warned us that if we tried to take any Rwandan we would all be eliminated. Those in the house at that time were two women and one small girl”, recounted Hutsebaut. He said that they were forced to retreat leaving the women who immediately locked themselves in. “A few moments later, we could hear sounds of breaking glass as the soldiers started breaking into the house”, he continued. “There were screams of terror coming from the house, later followed by gunshots”, he added. Asked by one of the defence counsels why they had not intervened, the witness claimed that they were outnumbered. Adjutant Didier Hutsebaut is the 34th witness called by the prosecution in this trial dubbed Military I. It groups together the former director of Cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva and Major Aloys Ntabakuze, former commander of the elite Kanombe Para-military battalion in Kigali. They are charged with multiple counts of genocide and crimes against humanity. All have pleaded not guilty. The prosecution maintains that in the early hours of April 7, 1994, senior army officers met to study the void left by the death of president Habyarimana under the guidance of Bagosora. The indictment reads that as the meetings were going on, “… groups of military, lists in hand, proceeded to arrest, confine and carry out systematic assassinations of a large number of political opponents, both Hutu and Tutsi, including the prime Minister, some ministers in her government, and the president of the constitutional court”. The trial is taking place in trial Chamber One of the ICTR. The presiding judge in the trial, Judge Erik Møse of Norway was not present. Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji Judge presided for the very first time in the tribunal. He was assisted by Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov. KN/CE/FH (ML'1202e)