Arusha, 25 May 2007 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will hear next week the closing arguments of the Prosecutor and of the defense in its biggest case, that of Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, accused as being the “mastermind" of the genocide and tried with three other officers.
The "colonel of the apocalypse" was a cabinet chief to the ministry of Defense during the genocide. Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva was commander of the military sector of Gisenyi (northern Rwanda), Major Aloys Ntabakuze commanded the only paracommando battalion of the time, and, finally, Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi was a chief of military operations in the Chief of Staff of the army. After the Prosecutor, whose presentation should last only two hours, their attorneys will present their cases in this order.
Accused of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and of war crimes, the four high ranking officers plead not guilty.
Bagosora and Nsengiyumva were arrested in Cameroon in March 1996 and were transferred to the ICTR detention center on 23 January 1997. They were joined there on 18 July 1997 by Kabiligi and Ntabakuze who had just been arrested the same day in Kenya.
After many excuses on the benefits and the disadvantages of a group trial, the trial opened on 2 April 2002, in the absence of the defendants.
The opening arguments of the chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte were the only act of that inaugural session which had, however, grabbed worldwide mediatic attention.
The Swiss prosecutor promised to the Chamber, which was then presided by judge George Williams of Saint-Kitts-and-Nevis, to prove "a plan and an organization" between the defendants in order to commit the genocide.
Since then, the trial has gone through many changes. Right after the opening arguments in September 2002, the principal prosecuting attorney, the canado-nigerian Chile Eboe Osuji, was deprived of the file to the profit of the American Barbara Mulvaney announced as the one that was needed for this historical trial.
In May 2003, Judge Williams who was in permanent conflict with the defense teams and which often deplored, in session, the slowness of the proceedings, was withdrawn from the case, officially due to "personal reasons".
The direction of the proceedings was taken over by the Norwegian Judge Erik Mose who arrived, not only, to bring a new rhythm to the case but also to render the sessions serene.
Forced to reduce her list of witnesses on several occasions, the Prosecutor concluded her case on 14 October 2004 after having called 82 people to the stand.
The defense opened their case on 11 April 2005 and completed it last January, the defendants having called 160 witnesses.
Next week, the team of Barbara Mulvaney will especially endeavour to convince the judges to have proved during the trial of the existence of an agreement between the 4 officers for the extermination of Tutsis.
On their side, the defense teams, which have stood apart with their political stances, will not fail to seize this occasion to, once again, attack their favourite target: the current Rwandan regime issued from the former rebellion of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), which they accuse to be "the true responsible of the Rwandan drama".
© Hirondelle News Agency