Arusha, April 14, 2004 (FH) – A prosecution witness in the case of four senior officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) going on at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), on Tuesday claimed to have witnessed the murder of ten Belgian blue helmets on April 7, 1994. The protected witness code-named “CE” was a member of the ex-FAR and had been deployed at Kigali military camp where the murders took place.

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He said that the Belgians soldiers were brought to the camp at around 8 o' clock in the morning aboard a minibus. He claimed that a Rwandan Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO), Warrant Officer First Class Leonard Sebutiyongera, started spreading rumours that the Belgians had shot down the plane carrying president Juvenal Habyarimana. The death of Habyarimana on the night of April 6, 1994 triggered the genocide of Tutsis and the massacres of Hutu members of the opposition that claimed the lives of an estimated one million people within a hundred days. “Shortly after (Sebutiyongera's claims), soldiers started beating up the Belgians. Within the first ten minutes, some of them were dead”, explained CE. “I was at least three metres from them”, pointed out the witness adding that when an exchange of fire between the Belgians and the FAR erupted, soldiers, himself included, were deployed to defend the camp. One of the four accused in this trial, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, is particularly accused of the murders. During cross-examination, Raphael Constant, Bagosora's Franco Martinique lawyer asked him to specify from which unit the soldiers who killed the Belgians came from, to which he answered “they came from different units, it was difficult to tell them apart”. The witness added that the commander of the Kigali camp, Colonel Nubaha, was present when the Belgians were killed. He however pointed out that he was not aware if the soldiers who killed the Belgians were acting under orders. Colonel Theoneste Bagosora is co-accused with the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and Major Aloys Ntabakuze, the former commander of Kanombe Para-military battalion based in Kigali. All four have pleaded not guilty to charges of, among others, genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The so-called “Military I” trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway, Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. CE is the 53rd witness so far called by the prosecution since the trial opened April 2, 2002. At least five other witnesses have spoken of the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the Belgian blue helmets who had been assigned to protect Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana. She was also killed the same day. KN/GA/AT/CE/FH (ML''0414e)