Arusha, November 21st, 2003 (FH) – A prosecution witness on Friday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that he had contemplated evacuating Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana to the safety of CND (Conseil National pour le Développement), where a battalion of The Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) was camped. The witness code-named “XXO” to protect his identity, was a former gendarme who had been deployed to protect the premier in April 1994.

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He was testifying in the trial of four senior officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) are on trial for their roles in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. He told the tribunal that immediately after the shooting down of the plane carrying former president Juvenal Habyarimana, he had been called by his supervisor to take the Prime minister to safety, as soldiers of the Presidential Guards had started killing members of the opposition. Habyarimana's death triggered the genocide that claimed the lives of an estimated one million people. “She had been accused of being close to the RPF, and I was sure that if I could manage to take her there, they would welcome her. They would not kill her”, stated the witness. He was answering a question from Raphael Constant, defence counsel for Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence who is one of the accused. Asked by Constant during cross-examination as to why he had not asked for reinforcements, XXO replied that they had been turned away by the presidential guards as the approached the prime minister's residence. Constant also raised doubts as to the time Belgian peacekeepers sent to protect Uwilingiyimana arrived at the residence. While records from the Belgian army state that the soldiers arrived at 5:35 AM, the witness had testified the previous day that they had arrived “at around four … four thirty”. Another bone of contention between the witness and the defence counsel was the alleged time killings started. While Constant quoted the Belgian historian, Filip Reytjens, as putting the time at “ten hours after the downing of the president's plane”, the witness alleged that he had been informed by his superiors earlier. The plane was shot down at 8:30 PM. XXO went on to say that it was the reason he had not been able to evacuate the prime minister as soldiers had already blocked all exits by midnight. The witness had testified the previous day that he had pleaded with Uwilingiyimana to flee earlier, but that she had refused. The prime minister, her husband and 10 Belgian peace keepers were executed in Kigali on April 7, 1994. The prosecution says that Bagosora is responsible for their deaths. Bagosora is jointly tried in the so-called “Military I” trial with 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 Kanombe Para-military battalion based in Kigali. All four have pleaded not guilty to charges of, among others, Genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The prosecution also maintains that immediately after the death of Habyarimana, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, de-facto took over military and political control of the country and that he was the chief architect of the genocide. The trial is being conducted in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. The trial adjourned in the middle of the morning as there were no other witnesses available for the day. It will resume on Monday. KN/CE/FH (ML'1121e)