Arusha, September 29, 2003 (FH) – The defence counsel for the former commander of the Kanombe para-commando battalion in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, on Monday blamed the alleged massacres committed by the defendant on the former rebel group, the Rwandese Patriotic Army (RPF). The allegations were made during the so-called “Military I” trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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During the hearing, a prosecution witness code-named “DBQ”, said that on April 7, 1994, Ntabakuze ordered the killing of Tutsis in the residential area of Remera in Kigali. The accused allegedly gave the orders the night before, shortly after the assassination of the former president Juvenal Habyarimana that triggered the massacres of Tutsis and Hutu members of the opposition. “Did you know Mr. witness, that the massacres of April 7, 1994, were committed by the RPF and not by the para-commando battalion”? Ntabakuze's lawyer, André Tremblay asked during the cross-examination of DBQ. To give credence to his assertions, Tremblay quoted a passage from a book on the Rwandan genocide by Philip Reytjens, a Belgian professor, entitled “Rwanda, Three Days That Shook History” in which the author talks of “killings committed by the RPF on April 7” in Remera where 121 people died. Tremblay pointed out that the author had talked of “a well-organised operation using an established list”. “You can go and ask the RPF for more information. I am not here as a representative of the RPF”, retorted the witness, adding that he could not read French. The defence went on to suggest that during the fighting between the army and the Tutsi-dominated RPF, “the para-commando battalion had a national mandate to protect the nation but not to kill civilians”. “We diverted from the mandate because our commander (Ntabakuze) was an extremist”, replied the witness, himself a former member of the battalion. Major Aloys Ntabakuze is being jointly tried with the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, and the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lt. Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. They are accused of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. All four have pleaded not guilty. The trial is being conducted by Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of judges Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. The defence will continue cross-examining the witness on Tuesday. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0929e)