Arusha, September 8, 2003 (FH) – A prosecution witness on Monday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that the former commander of Kanombe Para-commando battalion in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, ordered the killings of Tutsi refugees at Kagbayi, Gitarama prefecture (central Rwanda) in April 1994. The allegations were made by a protected witness code-named “XAI” during the trial of four former senior military officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) who are accused of genocide and other related charges.

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XAI said that he was one of the wounded soldiers who were evacuated from Kanombe military hospital in Kigali to a makeshift camp in the town of Gitarama in May 1994. “Ntabakuze came to our camp and angrily asked how soldiers could be living in the open air while ‘snakes' were in houses”, declared the witness, adding that Ntabakuze was referring to Tutsi refugees who were living in buildings below the camp. “He said that if we were unable to deal with the refugees, he was going to seek the help of Interahamwe militia known as Zulus”, said the witness. He continued that a short while later, the militia arrived and dragged the refugees to a wood area near the camp. The witness said that the refugees numbered about 80, many of them sick, hungry and wearing rags. “Moments later, there was the sound of exploding grenades and screams from the refuges”, he declared. XAI continued that a few days later, there was a strong odour coming from where the killings had taken place. Earlier, the witness had said that he had been present when Ntabakuze had addressed soldiers under his command at Kanombe, a short while after the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane on April 6, 1994. “Major Ntabakuze told the assembled soldiers that the president should not die like a dog. He told the soldiers not to sleep, then gave instructions to go to the armoury and get weapons” narrated XAI. According to him, the soldiers were then deployed in the neighbouring areas of Kabagari, Mulindi; Kicukiro, Rubungo and Remera. “The next morning we heard the Tutsis had been eliminated. Many of the soldiers were drunk and some had dollars”, XAI told the tribunal. The prosecution maintains that immediately after the president's plane was shot down, “military and militia set up roadblocks and began slaughtering Tutsi and members of the Hutu opposition in Kigali and other parts of Rwanda”. Ntabakuze is being jointly tried in the so-called “Military I” with the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, and the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. All four have pleaded not guilty to charges of, among others, Genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. XAI is the fifteenth prosecution witness and the first to directly refer to Major Ntabakuze. Professor Peter Erlinder of the USA, Ntabakuze's lead counsel, last week declared that “there is a big difference between Ntabakuze's liability and that of the other accused” and applied for a separate trial. “Incriminating evidence against my client is very negligible”, he said. The tribunal is yet to rule on the motion for disjoinder. XAI will continue testifying Tuesday before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judges Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji . KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0908e)