Arusha, September 17, 2003 (FH) – A prosecution witness on Wednesday toldthe International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the formerdirector of cabinet in the ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora,distributed firearms to militia from April 7, 1994. The protected witness code-named XXC to keep his identity secret, is theseventeenth witness called by the prosecution so far.

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He informed thetribunal that immediately after the shooting down of former presidentJuvenal Habyarimana's plane on April 6, 1994, roadblocks were set up on allroads leading in and out of Kigali. According to the witness, the roadblocks were controlled by soldiers,especially elements of the presidential guard who were assisted by theInterahamwe militia. The latter are considered to have spearheaded thegenocide that cost the lives of about one million people between April andJuly 1994. “They (soldiers and Interahamwe) received weapons from Bagosora” allegedwitness XXC, replying to a question posed by a member of the prosecutionteam, Segun Jegede from Nigeria. The witness was quick to add that he didnot personally witness the handing out of the weapons, but rather heardabout it from friends. According to the witness, the incident happened around April 15 1994 andmany Tutsis were arrested and killed at the roadblocks while others weremurdered in their homes. The prosecution maintains that “in the hours that followed the crash ofPresident Habyarimana's plane, military and militiamen set up roadblocks andbegan slaughtering Tutsis and members of the Hutu opposition in Kigali andin other parts of Rwanda”. The indictment continues that at the roadblocks, they checked the identitycards of passers-by and killed those who were identified as Tutsi. Militarypatrols, often involving militiamen, scoured the city, lists in hand, toexecute the Tutsi and certain political opponents. The prosecutor goes on to say that Bagosora took “de-facto” control ofpolitical and military affairs after the death of the president. “He imposedhimself upon everyone as the man of the situation who had the power tocontrol events”. In the view of the prosecutor, Bagosora is the “brains”, the main architectof the genocide. XXC described the accused as “merciless” and that “his wickedness was knownby all”. This, the witness said, was compounded by the influential andimportant role he played within the presidents close entourage known as “thedeath squadron”. The witness explained that the group's role was to hunt, arrest and torturepeople opposed the President Habyarimana's rule. Many suspected members ofthis “circle of influence” that was in existence long before the genocide,are detained by the ICTR. Among them is Zigiranyirazo Protais, abrother-in-law to the former president. Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, is being jointly tried with the former head ofmilitary operations of the army, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, the former armycommander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and theformer commander of the Para-commando battalion in Kanombe (Kigali), MajorAloys Ntabakuze. All four have pleaded not guilty to various charges related to genocide andwar crimes. The so-called “Military I” trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of theICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway and is assisted by judgesSerguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. The trial continues on Thursday with the continuation of XXC's testimony. GG/CE/FH(RC'0917e)