Arusha, September 4, 2003 (FH) – A prosecution witness in the trial of four senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) on Thursday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that soldiers had killed Tutsis who had taken refuge in a mosque where he worked in April 1994. The 13th prosecution witness,code-named “HU” to protect his identity, said that both Hutus and Tutsis had taken refuge in a mosque a day after the shooting down of former president Juvenal Habyarimana's plane.

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The witness did not say where the mosque was situated. The soldiers accompanied by Interahamwe (militia allied to the president's party), allegedly arrived at the mosque on April 8, 1994. They then started separating Hutus from Tutsis basing on identity cards. “At least 20 Tutsis were killed (by Interahamwe), who hacked them using machetes and grass-cutters while others were clubbed to death”, declared the witness. The witness claimed that the soldiers belonged to the presidential guard's battalion. The former commander of that battalion, Major Protais Mpiranya, is being sought for by the ICTR. According to many testimonies, soldiers and gendarmes played in key role in the genocide, by ordering killings or setting examples. The prosecution maintains that the senior officers had authority over members of the armed forces, even those not directly under their command. The so-called “Military I” trial groups together the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lt. Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and the former commander of the Para-commando battalion of Kanombe (Kigali), Major Aloys Ntabakuze. All four have pleaded not guilty to genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The trial was adjourned twice early this week because of lack of witnesses, but by Thursday morning the problem had been solved. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR comprised of Judges Erik Mose of Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich of Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0904e)