Arusha, 27 September 2007 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has requested that Paris cooperate with the defence of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the interim government in power during the 1994 genocide, Jerome Bicamumpaka, who wishes to call to the stand seven French diplomats, it was learned Thursday.

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In an order issued Wednesday, the chamber "respectfully requests" France to permit the defence of Bicamumpaka to meet the ambassadors Jean-Michel Marlaud, Jacques Depaigne, Jean-Bernard Mérimée and the officials Domenique Pin, Bruno Delaye, Jean-Marc Rochereau de la Sablière and Daniel Leandri.

The decision also requires Paris to "finish as soon as possible the procedures planned by its own laws, with the objective to allow the possible testimony at the beginning of 2008 of the French ambassadors and officials", the text mentions.

The testimony of French diplomats or senior officials, who intervened in the Franco-Rwandan relations at the time of the genocide or before, has often been requested by the ICTR; however, it has never obtained permission.

Marlaud was an ambassador for France in Rwanda during the genocide; Depaigne was in Zaire; Mérimée at the United Nations. Four other French officials were then based in Paris, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at the office of the President of the Republic or at the Ministry for the Interior.

Bicamumpaka, who has been testifying for last two weeks, hopes that these Frenchmen will be able to support his defence which rests primarily on an alibi.

He stated that after his entry in the interim government on 9 April 1994, he passed most of his time meeting with diplomats, in particular from France, seeking their support in order to put an end to the genocide.

He wants to, thus, prove his non-participation in the activities that prosecution testimonies have alleged.

Bicamumpaka also intends to call for his defence other foreign diplomats among which the ambassador of Belgium in Rwanda in 1994, Johann Swinnen. The chamber had also requested from the Belgian government cooperation in this matter.

The former head of the Rwandan diplomacy is on trial alongside three other members of the interim government which was driven out of power and the country in July 1994 by the rebellion of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), currently in power.

© Hirondelle News Agency