Arusha, October 1, 2003 (FH) – The defence counsel for the former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagisora who is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), on Tuesday challenged claims by a prosecution witness that the accused had visited Kanombe military barracks on the night of April 6, 1994. The 18th prosecution witness code-named “DBQ” to keep his identity secret, asserted that Bagosora arrived at the camp at a time when soldiers had assembled on the orders of Major Aloys Ntabakuze, then commander of Kanombe para-commando battalion of which the witness was a member.

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Both Ntabakuze and Bagosora are jointly being tried with two other senior army officers of the former Rwandan Army (ex-FAR). On that occasion, Ntabakuze allegedly ordered the soldiers to hunt down the “enemy”, alluding to Tutsis whom he blamed for the death of former President Habyarimana whose plane had just been brought down by a surface-to-air missile. According to DBQ, the meeting supposedly went on “up to one o'clock in the morning”. Commenting on the alleged presence of Bagosora at the camp, the co-counsel for the accused, Paul Skolnik from Canada, described it as “purely made up”. Skolnik instead suggested that his client had convened a meeting of senior army officers on the morning of April 7, 1994 at army headquarters in the presence of the commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR), the Canadian General Romeo Dallaire. “Bagosora was not in Kanombe the previous night”, he argued. Bagosora is considered as the “mastermind” of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. According to the prosecution, in 1994 the accused “was the most powerful man in the country” who “de-facto” took political and military control of Rwanda after the assassination of Habyarimana. “He impressed upon everyone as the man of the situation who could manage the crisis”, it points out. Bagosora and Ntabakuze are grouped together in this trial with the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, and the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lt. Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. All have pleaded not guilty to all charges levelled against them. The trial is being conducted by 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 19th prosecution witness dubbed “AR” began testifying during the afternoon. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'1001e)