Arusha, April 27, 2007 (FH) – Simeon Nshamihigo, aged 46, a former judge in Cyangugu (southwest Rwanda), started the presentation of the evidence in his defense at the international Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) where is being tried for genocide and crimes against humanity.
His trial started on September 25, 2006. The prosecution rested its case on January 29, 2007 after having called twenty-four witnesses.
Nshamihigo’s defense, composed of two Canadian lawyers, Mr. Denis Turcotte and Mr. Henry Benoit announced “about fifty witnesses.” At the outset, they severely criticized the prosecution witnesses, arguing “the weakness of the prosecution’s position” and consequently “the fragility of the trial’s foundation,” promising to call “direct witnesses” to the Tutsi massacres of which Nshamihigo is accused and who should prove his innocence.
One of the witnesses heard this week exculpated the defendant in the assassination, in May 1994, of the Catholic priest Joseph Boneza and numerous other victims.
The Chamber also heard the testimony of the defendant’s wife, Mrs. Colette Uwaubuheta. She specifically said that Nshamihigo’s home had been attacked by wounded soldiers from the front. They suspected him of harbouring “Inyenzi” (cockroaches, the pejorative term used to designate Tutsis), she said. Seven other witnesses should be heard next week.
Other than this trial, the Tribunal continued hearings this week in two other cases: Butare and Military II.
Grouping together six defendants including the only woman detainee in the ICTR, former minister Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the Butare (south) trial started on June 12, 2001. The fourth co-defendant is presenting her defense.
The Military II trial started on September 20, 2004. It involves four high ranking officials including two former Chiefs of General Staff: General Augustin Bizimungu (army) and General Augustin Ndindiliyiamana (police).
Bizimungu was the first to present his defense. He is currently in his second week. This trial doubles that of Military I, which involves four other officers including the former Director of the Cabinet at the Ministry of Defense, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora.
The Tribunal also held a hearing Friday in the trial of Hormisdas Nsengimana, a Catholic priest accused of genocide. Father Nsengimana, aged 53 years, former rector at the prestigious college of Christ-the-King in Nyanza (south) re-entered a not-guilty plea on the basis of a new indictment which includes three counts: genocide, assassinations and extermination as crimes against humanity. The previous indictment contained four counts: genocide, criminal conspiracy, assassination and extermination as a crime against humanity. Nsengimana was arrested in Cameroon on March 21, 2002.
© Hirondelle News Agency