Arusha, September 26, 2003 (FH) – A prosecution witness on Friday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that he witnessed the shooting down of former President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane. Habyarimana's death triggered the 1994 genocide in Rwanda where approximately one million Tutsis and Hutu members of the opposition were killed.

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The protected witness code-named “DBQ” to keep his identity secret, is a former Para-commando who was living at Kanombe military barracks in Kigali. He is the 18th witness to be called by the prosecution in the so-called “Military I” trial. The trial groups four senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) who are accused of among others, genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Top on the list is Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence and who is considered by the prosecution as the “mastermind “of the genocide. The others in the trial are with the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lt. Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and the former commander of the Para-commando battalion in Kanombe (Kigali), Major Aloys Ntabakuze. “I was standing outside our living quarters when I saw the plane explode and come hurtling down “, said DBQ, during cross-examination by André Tremblay, one of Ntabakuze's lawyers. The witness continued that shortly after, soldiers from his camp went outside the barracks and started hunting for and killing Tutsis and their Hutu “collaborators” whom they blamed for the attack on the president. “The orders were given by Ntabakuze”, said DBQ, adding that the 1st. company in which he belonged, was the first to begin the massacres. The witness denied allegations made by Tremblay that he had been sent by the Rwandan army to testify. “No one sent me. All I know is that investigators from the tribunal came to question me and I was later asked to testify”. On several occasions,DBQ showed irritation at the defence counsel's attempt to question his credibility. “I know what I am talking about”, the witness would retort angrily. “but you only know what you were told”. The defence will continue cross-examining this witness on Monday. The prosecuting attorney in this case, Barbara Mulvaney from the USA, announced that next week she intended to call two more witnesses already in Arusha, another former member of the Para-commando battalion and a survivor of the killings. The trial is being conducted by 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. KN/CE/FH (ML'0926e)