Arusha, November 11, 2003 (FH) – A prosecution witness on Monday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that soldiers from the elite reconnaissance battalion were the ones who killed the former prime minister of Rwanda, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, on April 7, 1994. The 23rd prosecution witness code-named “DAK” to keep his identity secret, was testifying in the trial of four senior officers of the former Rwandan army (FAR).

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The witness was a corporal in the FAR in 1994 and was part of the reconnaissance battalion based in Kigali. The former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, one of the accused in this so-called “military I” trial, is particularly held responsible for the death of Uwilingiyimana. The commander of the reconnaissance battalion, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye as well as his deputy, Captain Innocent Sagahutu, are also being detained in Arusha. They are being charged in a separate trial, dubbed “Military II” together with generals Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Augustin Bizimungu. DAK alleged in his testimony that he had been sent by Innocent Sagahutu to soldiers guarding Radio Rwanda and to the president's office, with a message that prime minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana should not approach the radio station. The prime minister planned to address the nation through the radio. She was assassinated together with ten Belgian Blue helmets who were guarding her. DAK affirms that she was killed by soldiers of the reconnaissance battalion and the presidential guards. During cross-examination, one of Bagosora's defence counsels, Paul Skolnik, pointed out to the witness that “Sagahutu did not have any authority over the presidential guards”. The Canadian lawyer went on to challenged the witness to name the soldiers to whom he had given the message from Sagahutu. “In the army, it is the rank that counts”, the witness answered. Skolnik also pointed out that it was strange that “such an important message meant for officers could be entrusted to a corporal”. The prosecution 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. “Colonel Bagosora refused to consult the prime minister and refused to recognise her authority”, so reads the indictment in part. 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 so-called “Military I” trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), judges Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. The tribunal has begun hearing the 24th witness who will continue testifying on Tuesday. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'1111e)