Arusha, July 4, 2003 (FH) -The defence of former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, on Friday challenged before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), claims by a prosecution witness that their client drew up lists of Tutsis to be killed long before the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Bagosora's Franco-Martinique lawyer, Rafael Constant, was cross-examining witness "XPH", so-called to keep his identity secret, in the trial of four senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR).

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During his direct examination on Thursday, the witness had alleged that Bagosora had drawn up the lists in Butare (southern Rwanda) at the "end of 1993 or early 1994". Bagosora is said to have done it with one of his co-accused, Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, former military commander of Gisenyi region. XPH pointed out that the two officers, dressed in army uniform and accompanied by their escorts, were at a friend's house in Butare. "At that time Bagosora had retired from the army and could not put on army uniform", declared Constant. "I put it to you that you never saw Bagosora that day", he concluded. However, the witness maintained his position, explaining that he was not aware that Bagosora had retired. Referring to Tutsis who were arrested in Butare after the meeting, Constant drew attention to two contradictions: in his testimony, the witness had said that the people had been taken to a matchbox making company, Société Rwandaise d'Allumettes (SORWAL). Yet in his written statement he had said that they had been driven from a house where the witness had been employed as a houseboy aboard a military lorry. The vehicle was then loaded with boxes of match boxes to hide the human cargo. "That is not what I said. A lorry could not pass through employer's gates", protested the witness, pointing out again that the errors were the work of ICTR investigators as he had done on Thursday. Bagosora and Nsengiyumva are jointly on trial with the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, and the former commander of the Para-commando battalion in Kanombe (Kigali), Major Aloys Ntabakuze. All have pleaded not guilty. The prosecution alleges that from the end of 1990 up to July 1994, Theoneste Bagosora and others, including the three jointly accused with him, had prepared a "Machiavellic plan" to eliminate the Tutsi civilian population and members of the opposition in order to hang on to power. "Some of the elements in that plan included promoting hatred, ethnic violence, training and arming Interahamwe militia as well as drawing up lists of those to be killed", the prosecution argues. The so-called "Military I" trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse (presiding)I assisted by Serguei Aleckseievich of Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. Cross examination of the witness continues on MondayKN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0704e2)