Arusha, November 21, 2003 (FH) – The defence of the former minister ofhealth in the Rwandan interim government, Dr Casimir Bizimungu, on Thursdayquestioned the credibility of a prosecution witness at the InternationalCriminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Bizimungu is jointly charged with three other former ministers in theso-called “Government II” trial that includes Prosper Mugiraneza (Publicservice), Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign affairs) and Justin Mugenzi, formerminister of Commerce.

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Eric Serge Rousseau from Belgium, the second witness called by theprosecution, had his Jewish mother's family decimated during the Holocaust. He said that it was that experience that pushed him to go and work in Rwandaas a volunteer in July 1994. After roving all over the country as a member of a commission established bythe new government, the witness wrote one of the first report on the Rwandandrama. The report incriminates the four accused. Bizimungu's defence counsel, Michelyne Chénard Saint-Laurent from Canada,was not convinced of the objectivity of the report. “How could a Belgiancitizen like you abandon everything and go to Rwanda in July 1994 as avolunteer?” asked Saint-Laurent. The witness answered that going to Rwanda at that time was very important tohim because it reminded him of what had happened to his mother's family. The defence counsel also pointed out that Rousseau had close relations withmembers of the Rwandan community in Brussels and that this could haveinfluenced his work. He answered that his Rwandan friends “had no political label” that couldhave made them interfere with his work. “Were you never paid by the RPF government”? asked the counsel, to which thewitness replied that that he had only been accommodated in a dingy apartmentand given a stipend. When the lawyer asked him whether, during their investigations, members ofhis commission had not met with leaders of IBUKA (the major genocidesurvivors' association), he answered that he could not bet on it. When St. Laurent finishes her cross-examination on Friday, other defenceteams will take over from her. The trial is taking part in trial Chamber Two of the ICTR composed of JudgesAsoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka (presiding), Khalida Rashid Khanfrom Pakistan and Lee Gacuiga Muthoga from Kenya. KN/ER/CE/FH (GVII'1121'e)