21.09.07 - ICTR/WEEKLY SUMMARY - ARREST OF A FORMER MINISTER INDICTED FOR THE PAST SEVEN YEARS

Arusha, 21 September 2007 (FH) - A Rwandan former minister indicted for genocide since 1999 was arrested at the beginning of the week in Germany at the request of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
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Augustin Ngirabatware, 50, was Minister for Planning in 1994. The prosecutor accuses him of having transferred the development funds of the country allocated to his ministry towards the presidential party which used them to purchase weapons and drugs for "the program of civil defence"
 
"The weapons bought were not assigned for the legitimate objectives of national defence, but were, rather, intended and used to arm the civil population and the civil militia for the purpose of having them commit crimes against Tutsis", according to the indictment.
 
Ngirabatware was one of the most wanted suspects of the ICTR; among which also figures his father-in-law, businessman Félicien Kabuga.
 
The spokesperson for the prosecutor, Tim Gallimore, declared that Ngirabatware should be tried by the ICTR whereas several other accused that are still at large or awaiting their trials are likely to be transferred to national courts, in particular Rwanda, in accordance with the completion strategy of this UN tribunal, due to end its activities by the end of December 2008.
 
Ngirabatware is considered by the prosecutor an influential member of the presidential party in Gisenyi (north-western Rwanda), his native region, "from his status as an eminent academic, his permanence with the government since 1990 at the head of a key ministry where many funds circulated and being the son-in-law of Félicien Kabuga (himself a rich ally of President Juvénal Habyarimana)".
 
The ICTR is in negotiations with Germany to transfer Ngirabatware to Arusha.
 
The tribunal also held this week proceedings in several other cases. On Monday, the judges heard the closing arguments in the case of Juvénal Rugambara, the former mayor of Bicumbi (eastern Rwanda), who pled guilty to the extermination of some of the Tutsis he administered in 1994.
 
The prosecutor required a minimum prison sentence of twelve years while the defence is pleading for "a sentence which will be as similar as possible to his compatriots (...) a sentence which will rehabilitate him".
 
Rugambara expressed great remorse and ask the victims for forgiveness.
 
The proceedings also continued in the Butare, Government II, Rukundo and Nshamihigo trials.
 
The Butare trial was marked by the testimony, in favour of the former Mayor Joseph Kanyabashi, of Belgian professor Filip Reyntjens, a historian specializing in Rwanda.
 
Called on several occasions as an expert by the prosecutor, Filip Reyntjens broke with the prosecution in 2005 due to the fact that it had not accused the elements of the former Rwandan rebellion suspected of war crimes.
 
In Government II, it is the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jerome Bicamumpaka, one of the four defendants, who testified on his own behalf. His testimony had been interrupted in mid-August following the death of his lawyer, Pierre Gaudreau (Canada).
 
Another defendant who testified on his own behalf this week is the former magistrate Siméon Nshamihigo who is accused of genocide in Cyangugu. Siméon Nshamihigo, who has pled not guilty, stated that there was no genocide in his region.
 
"That is not my understanding there. I recognize nevertheless that there were massacres. But from that to affirm that there was a genocide, I do not share such an opinion ", he indicated at the end of his testimony. The proceedings were to finish this Friday.
 
Furthermore, Abbot Emmanuel Rukundo, former military chaplain, also continued his defence during the week. A witness for the defence, who was a soldier with Ruhengeri (northern Rwanda) where he officiated, testified Friday in his trial.
 
The witness stated that "he was a man of God who achieved his tasks in a satisfactory manner". Rukundo is accused of genocide and has pled not guilty.
 
Next week, the Butare, Rukundo and Government II trials will continue. A new session will start for the trial of Simpon Bikindi. The singer will begin presenting his case.
 
AT/PB/MM

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