Arusha, February 23, 2004 (FH) - A prosecution witness in the “Military I” trial on Monday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the former commander of the Kanombe Para-military battalion, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, led soldiers from the death squad to eliminate former prime minister Dismas Nsengiremye. Ntabakuze is jointly charged with the former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former head of operations in the former Rwandan army, Brigadier General Gratien Kabiligi,and the former military commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva.

2 min 15Approximate reading time

They are mostly charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. All have pleaded not guilty. The witness, code-named “XAQ” to conceal his identity, told the court during examination in chief that a corporal named Munyankindi assigned to the unit escorting Major Ntabakuze in the para commando battalion in 1992 to 1993 told him, “Major Ntabakuze led soldiers going to eliminate the then prime minister, Dismas Nsengiremye but the operation failed”. Part of the indictment states that the strategy adopted in the early 1990s, which culminated in the widespread massacres of April 1994, comprised several components, which were carefully worked out by the various prominent figures who shared the extremist Hutu ideology, including the members of the Akazu. XAQ who is the 47th prosecution witness added that Munyankindi told him thathe was a member of the death squad. “He told me he was assigned to a mission to eliminate people,” XAQ, who was himself a member of the paracommando battalion said. “I saw Aloys Ntabakuze every day along with Captain Hakizimana and Bizimungu in the Mugunga and Tingitingi camp (In Zaire, now DRC),” he explained. According to the witness, the death squad was in operation from the beginning of the multi party period up to the time of the death of presidentHabyarimana in 1994. Similar information about the existence of a death squad was revealed by General Romeo Dallaire, the former UNAMIR commander, when he testified in the same trial at the ICTR, in January this year. Dallaire referred to the death squad as a third force composed of extremists. The witness testified that soon after the death of president Habyarimana, Ntabakuze addressed para commando soldiers on what they had to do saying, “The Inyenzis have just killed him, we have to avenge his death. ” Inyenzi is the deragatory word meaning coackroaches which was used to refer to Tutsis at the time. “Soon after that, the arms depot was opened and the soldiers took ammunition and started killing people in Kajagari area next to Kanombe camp in Kigali,” the witness continued to narrate. XAQ also provided information regarding the Interahamwe. “After the downing of the plane, Interahamwe came to Kanombe camp onboard green ONATROCOM buses to obtain grenades and ammunition,” the witness explained, addingthat the Interahamwe were also provided with fuel and guns from the camp. The indictment states the Interahamwe (MRND youth wing), were organized into militia groups, which were financed, trained and led by prominent civilians and military figures from the President's entourage. They were issued weapons, with the complicity of certain military and civilian authorities. The militia groups were transported to training sites, including certain military camps, in public administration vehicles or vehicles belonging tocompanies controlled by the President's circle. XAQ will be cross-examined in the afternoon. The Military I trial is before trial Chamber One of the ICTR, presided over by Judge Erik Møse of Norway. Who is assisted by Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov of Russia as well as Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. SV/CE/FH (ML'0223e)