Arusha, July 2, 2003 (FH) - A prosecution witness on Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that the former military commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, created a death squad long before the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Witness "DO", so-called to protect his identity, made these allegations during cross-examination by Nsengiyumva's defence attorney, Kennedy Ogetto from Kenya.

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DO is the seventh prosecution witness. "The misfortune that befell the Gisenyi population during the genocide is due, in great part, to this group that was put together by Nsengiyumva with the help of Captain Bizimuremyi"," said the witness. The witness however could not pin-point the exact date the group was created but maintained that he found it in existence when he moved into the region in 1992. "When I arrived in Gisenyi, the 'death squad' already existed and was moving around town behaving like a para-military group", he said, adding that he had already learned of their existence from an Interahamwe leader called Mabuye, whom the witness said, was the commander of the death squad. "DO", who, in 1998, pleaded guilty in a Rwandan court for genocide, is serving a life sentence in one of Rwanda's prisons. The witness confessed that during the massacres, he drove Interahamwe militia on the orders of Nsengiyumva and Bizimuremyi. He further revealed that the majority of Interahamwe he drove around Gisenyi from the time the killings erupted were members of the death squad. According to the witness, they had been armed by Nsengiyumva. Nsengiyumva is being tried jointly with the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence and considered as the master-mind of the genocide, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former head of military operations in the Rwandan army Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, Major Aloys Ntabakuze who used to be the commander of the Para-commando battalion based at Kanombe (Kigali). The witness dismissed contradictions in his testimony when being cross-examined by Ogetto, saying that they were "inevitable" errors ten years after the events. Paul Skolnik, Bagosora's Canadian co-counsel observed that "the witness had not referred to the death squad in any of his statements". The so-called "Military I" trial is being condicted by Trial Chamber One, composed of Judges Erik Møse of Norway (presiding), the Russian judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0702e)