Arusha, February 18, 2003 (FH) –A prosecution witness in the so-called “Military I” trial, on Tuesday claimed that the former commander of the Kanombe Para-military battalion based in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntakuze, had stated that President Juvenal Habyarimana “should not die alone”. The witness, code-named “GS” to conceal his identity, was testifying at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where four senior officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) are standing trial.

1 min 37Approximate reading time

The trial began in April 2002. “They have killed him, but many people will be buried before him to serve like a bed of straw”, Ntabakuze allegedly menaced immediately after the president's plane was shot down. GS, the 44th prosecution witness so far, was a member of the BM battalion (in charge of construction) at Kanombe. A previous witness had testified to the same fact at the end of last year. The witness continued that shortly after Ntabakuze's threats, soldiers of the Para-commando unit left the camp and started massacres around Kanombe. He continued that he had seen bodies littered around the area on the morning of April 7, including members of his own family. The death of former president Habyarimana triggered off the genocide against Tutsis as well as massacres of the opposition that claimed the lives of an estimated one million lives between April and July, 1994. GS's testimony caused heated debates in court with the defence claiming that the witness had presented “new evidence” which had not been made available to them in advance. They also argued that the testimony was based on hearsay. Ntabakuze's co. counsel, André Tremblay from Canada, asserted that the witness had remained at the camp the whole night of April 6 and the next morning. The chamber decided that the examination of the witness should only touch on “relevant issues”. GS went on to allege that Major Ntabakuze was implicated in training and distributing arms to Interahamwe militia. Other witnesses have also made the same allegations. 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. They are mostly 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. Cross examination of GS continues on WednesdayKN/GA/CE/FH (ML''02018e)