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Brussels, 18 May 2007 (FH) - Belgian soldiers of the UNIMAR came to testify this week at the trial of Bernard Ntuyahaga, accused by Belgium to have taken part in the killing of ten of its peacekeepers in Kigali on 7 April 1994.

On Monday, Colonel Luc Marchal, who directed the forces of the United Nations in the Kigali region, stated that he could not have done anything to help the disarmed peacekeepers that were taken on the morning of April 7 to the military camp of Kigali, where they were killed, by Bernard Ntuyahaga.

"Nobody ever imagined that something had to be done to free the Lotin platoon since nobody knew, except some, that they were at the Kigali camp", he said. He specified that he had learned on late noticed of the place where they were. According to him, UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) was to face on 7 April, the following day of the attack against the plane of President Habyarimana, many problems, the situation with the peacekeepers was "only one among others".

The only reliable information received was "that a Major proposed to take them to a UNAMIR base in exchange of their weapons", would have rather reassured him, "the collaboration of the authorities with UNAMIR being good since February", he stated. He also said to have sufficiently informed his men on the means needed to ensure their safety.

Colonel Joseph Dewez, person in charge of the KIBAT battalion, on the other hand ensured that his superiors, including Colonel Marchal, were well-informed "as of 9h45", the whereabouts of the peacekeepers had been found thanks to the last distress message sent little after 9 A.M. by Lieutenant Lotin on the cellular phone of the UN military observer at the Kigali camp.

He nevertheless explained that he had never imagined that the soldiers were going to be killed. He also "was relieved" by the "collaboration of a Rwandan senior officer"

The officer explained to have had badly interpreted Lotin's last message from the camp in which he worried about "being lynched" and speaks about his men who "are being beaten". "Don't you think that you are exaggerating? ", he answered "I thought that I would recover them with at most an eye in less, which was already rather serious. I did not imagine that they underwent these abuses "

Clement de Cléty, counsel for the plaintiffs, was said "dismayed" by these testimonies, an "imposture with intelligence", he said. The families of the soldiers had left the room indignant.

Several comrades in arms of Lotin and his men, testifying on Tuesday, showed themselves very critical towards their hierarchy. "We took part as much as the others in the massacre by not intervening. There was a dysfunction on the level of the command ", stated Dimitri Pauwels.

All expressed their bitterness for the weakness of UNAMIR. Colonel Marchal spoke about completely ridiculous means "which just made it possible to ensure the safety of the soldiers" and "tools inapt to be used, an exact reflection of the operations of the UN".

Concerning the cases of abandoned Rwandan refugees to an unquestionable death at the time of the withdrawal of UNAMIR, decided following the killing of the ten peacekeepers, Colonel Dewez confessed to have had "a feeling of helplessness". "We would have agreed to help these people, but it was known that we were to leave. Colonel Marchal contacted the [Belgian] High Command to say that we had to stay. The political decision was different ", he explained.

"In the grand scheme of things, it was impossible to stop the genocide", stated Corporal Dimitri Pauwels. "I still live with that today. I would have liked to have done things differently", he added.

© Hirondelle News Agency