Arusha, 1st June 2007 (FH) - Kennedy Ogetto, the Kenyan lawyer of Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, accused of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, argued on Thursday and Friday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that his client had only done his duty as a soldier.

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Ogetteo expressed himself at the end of a week devoted to the closing arguments in his trial implying Nsengiyumva and three other officers; among whom the principal chief of staff of the former Ministry for Defense, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, accused of being "the mastermind" of the genocide.

"My client assumed his legitimate duties", declared the lawyer on several occasions, depending "of contradictions", "inconsistencies" in the prosecution's testimonies.

During the 1994 genocide, Nsengiyumva was operations commander in the military sector of Gisenyi (northern Rwanda). Previously, he had been responsible for military information at the Chief of Defense Staff of the Army.

The prosecutor alleges that some of the letters addressed by the defendant to his superiors of the time, when he was in charge of information, is tantamount to an agreement to commit genocide; the most serious of the crimes judged at the ICTR. In these letters, Nsengiyumva often analyzes the socio-political context of the time and makes recommendations to his hierarchy.

Ogetto stated that no army in the world would find anything reprehensible in these letters.

The defence attorney then lengthily evoked the period during which Nsengiyumva commanded the operational sector of Gisenyi.

The essence of the charge for this period rests on the alleged connections of the officer with the Interahamwe militia; in particular, with the chief militiaman Omar Serushago, convicted by the same court to 15 years in prison.

According to Serushago and other witnesses for the prosecution, Nsengiyumva would have distributed weapons to the militiamen and would have brought an invaluable support for the 1994 massacres in Gisenyi.

According to Ogetto, there is no credibility in the testimony of the former chief militiaman but his name.

The lawyer asked why, if he wanted to kill Tutsis, a commander would have had recourse to militiamen whereas he had armed soldiers under his command.

"My client did not have any connection with Interahamwe; he did not have authority or control on the militia ", he protested on several occasions.

He, in addition, denounced as a weakness of the charge, the fact that considerable witnesses for the prosecution are prisoners held in Rwanda.

"Witnesses held in Rwanda learn regularly how to come accuse persons on trial at the ICTR. Why is the Prosecutor relying on prisoners? ", he questioned.

""It is not just that international justice should be based on statements of prisoners", he estimated.

Nsengiyumva and Bagosora appeared with the former chief of military operations of the Chief of Defense Staff of the Army, Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi and the former paracommando battalion commander, Major Aloys Ntabakuze.

This day marks the end of their trial that had begun in April 2002.

The judgment will be rendered at a further date, before the end of the year.

© Hirondelle News Agency