Arusha, November 12, 2003 (FH) – Another prosecution witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that the former Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana was killed at her home by soldiers of the former Rwandan army on April 7, 1994. Code-named “HP” in order to keep his identity secret, the 24th witness was called by the prosecution in the case of four senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) on trial at the ICTR.

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The previous day, witness “DAK” had also testified on the assassination of Uwilingiyimana. A former corporal of the ex-FAR, HP said that on the morning of April 7, 1994, he had found the “naked” dead body of the prime minister on the veranda of her residence. “They had shot her many times in the mouth and she also had a bullet wound in the ribs”, testified the witness, adding that about 50 soldiers, most of them members of the presidential guard, were loitering around the prime minister's residence. The witness explained that he had been entrusted with the mission of taking food to soldiers who had gone to reinforce those guarding the president's residence. President Habyarimana's killing triggered the genocide against Tutsis. HP continued that the soldiers were under the command of a Warrant Officer (W. O) named Boniface Bizimungu who was in regular communication with the deputy commander of the reconnaissance battalion, Captain Innocent Sagahutu. Sagahutu and his commanding officer, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, are both also in custody at the ICTR. They are jointly charged in the so-called “Military II” trial with two generals of the ex-FAR: Augustin Bizimungu and Augustin NdindiliyimanaHP continued that Blue helmets from The United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) attempted to reach the prime minister's residence and Captain Sagahutu and W. O Bizimana fearing that the UN soldiers would see Uwilingiyimana's body, ordered the witness to evacuate it to Kanombe hospital, not far from town. The former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, who is one of the accused in this trial, is considered by the prosecution as the “mastermind” of the Rwandan genocide and he is also charged with the death of Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana. Even though HP never mentioned the accused in name, the prosecution nevertheless maintains that from the time the genocide against Tutsis began, which immediately followed the shooting down of president Habyarimana's plane, Bagosora refused to involve the prime minister in matters of state. During cross-examination, Bagosora co-counsel, Paul Skolnik of Canada, challenged HP's testimony calling it “not reliable”. Asked whether he knew who had shot the prime minister, the witness responded that he did “not know whether it was a presidential guard or another soldier from a different unit”. Colonel Bagosora is being jointly charged with the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi,, the former commander of Gisenyi military region, Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsegiyumva, and the former commander of the Para-commando battalion of Kanombe (Kigali), Major,Aloys Ntabakuze. All four have pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit genocide and war crimes among others. 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. Just before the trial was adjourned for the day, the prosecution introduced its 25th witness code-named “XAO”. He was a member of the para-commando battalion commanded by Ntabakuze at the time. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'1112e)