Arusha, February 25, 2004 (FH) – A prosecution witness on Tuesday alleged before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that the former chief of military operations in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR), Brigadier General Gratien Kabiligi, had sent numerous telegrams seeking reinforcements from Interahamwe militia during the 1994 genocide. The witness code-named “HN” to conceal his identity, is the 48th prosecution witness to testify in the so-called “Military I” trial where Kabiligi is jointly tried with three other former senior officers of the ex-FAR.

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The witness quoted a telegram sent at the “end of April” 1994 to the operations commander of Gitarama, instructing him to recruit 150 Interahamwe for military training. Another one sent “end of May” requested that the Interahamwe be deployed around Kigali. HN continued that another telegram of “around the end of June” called for Interahamwe to reinforce the army at Mburabuturo in Kigali. Kabiligi's Franco-Togolese counsel, Jean Degli, challenged the witness's statement, asserting that the Gitarama operations command did not exist at that time. He added that his client did not have the powers to recruit and arm army personnel. Specifically pointing out the alleged telegram sent at the end of June, the lawyer argued that soldiers at that time were in the process of leaving Rwandan territory. “Those messages never existed, they have simply been made up”, Degli declared. Answering a question from one of the judges, HN admitted that he never saw Kabiligi write or sign any of the telegrams and that he did not know his handwriting. Kabiligi is jointly charged with the former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former military commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and Major Aloy Ntabakuze, former commander of the Kanombe Para-commando battalion based in Kigali. The accused are mainly charged with Conspiracy to commit Genocide, War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity. All have pleaded not guilty. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. KN/GA/AT/CEFH (ML''0225e)