Arusha, September 11, 2003 (FH) – Defence counsel for the former commander of Kanombe para-commando battalion in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, on Thursday questioned the credibility of a prosecution witness at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Ntabakuze's co-counsel, André Tremblay from Canada, raised doubts when cross-examining a witness with the pseudonym “XAI”, so-called to protect his identity.

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XAI has been testifying since Monday in a trial where Ntabakuze is jointly accused together with three other former senior officers of the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR). During the direct examination by the prosecution, XAI had said that on the night of April 6, 1994, just after the shooting down of former president Juvenal Habyarimana's plane, Ntabakuze had exhorted his troops to commit massacres. The accused had allegedly announced that “the president cannot die like a dog”, and therefore Tutsis should be killed. XAI claimed to have been a witness when Ntabakuze made the statement. But when cross –examined by the defence counsel, the witness revealed that he had been seriously injured at the time and was confined to a hospital bed. “Do you find it normal that a seriously injured soldier can take part in an assembly of a fully operational unit”? inquired Tremblay, who challenged the witness to name which group of soldiers he lined up with, being a casualty of the war. “I was not a member of the assembled battalion. I was there just out of curiosity”, retorted XAI. “I highly doubt that he was at Kanombe at all”, insisted Tremblay, pointing out that his client was not in charge of the whole camp, but of only one battalion, and could therefore not convene a military parade. The defence went on to question the witness on the administrative and medical working order as well as the units and battalions making up Kanombe military camp. It became clear that the witness did not know most of the commanders of the various battalions at the camp. Tremblay conducted the cross-examination of the witness in the absence of the lead counsel, Professor Peter Erlinder from the USA who left Arusha on Tuesday night. Erlinder had requested that all witnesses testifying against his client be put off until November when he would be back, but the tribunal turned down his request. Tremblay indicated that he needed only one more hour on Friday to finish his cross-examination of XAI. The so-called “Military I” trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of Judges Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov of Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0911e)