Arusha, 9 November, 2007 (FH) - Five trials were held this week at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), including that of the singer Simon Bikindi who rested his defence case Wednesday.

2 min 3Approximate reading time

During a status conference Thursday, the defence requested a trip to Rwanda, on the spot of the alleged crimes; but the chamber has not yet ruled on the motion.
Bikindi is charged with having composed and performed three songs considered by the prosecutor as pyromaniac works, as well as the programs on Radio Télévision Libre des Mille collines (RTLM) or the articles in the Kangura newspaper. The artist, who has pleaded not guilty, stated to have done nothing but sing about peace.
Concerning his relations with the RTLM, he declared that he was only a "simple shareholder" and that he had never given a political speech on the air of this radio station.
In the Butare trial, the former mayor of Ngoma, Joseph Kanyabashi, continued his defence, with the testimony of a witness who supported that the defendant was not a man to incite genocide against Tutsis. The witness, who testified under a pseudonym to preserve his anonymity, explained that Kanyabashi was married to a Tutsi and that the public opinion in Butare mainly treated him as an accomplice to the Tutsi rebellion of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
In the "Government II" trial, which involves four former ministers, two former Rwandan personalities testified by video conference from The Hague for the defence of the former chief of Rwandan diplomacy, Jérôme Bicamumpaka.
It was the former prefect of Ruhengeri (northern Rwanda) Ignace Karuhije and the former Ambassador Isidore Rukira, who represented Rwanda to the Chinese and North-Korean governments during the genocide. Basing himself on instructions which he received in 1994 from Bicamumpaka by fax or telephone, Rukira stated that the interim government wanted peace. The former diplomat, currently in exile, indicated that he had, on instruction of his minister, requested from the ambassador of the United States in Beijing, an intervention from Washington towards Uganda and the RPF so that the hostilities would cease.
In the "Military II" trial, the defence of the former chief of staff of the army, General Augustin Bizimungu, continued with testimonies which proceeded, essentially, in closed session.
The trial of three national leaders of the former presidential party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), also continued; a case, which contrary to the four others, is still in the accusatory phase.
Next week will be marked by the visit of a chamber to Rwanda. The three judges and the parties in the trial of Protais Zigiranyirazo will visit the various places where the crimes alleged to him would have been committed.
The tribunal celebrated Thursday the thirteenth anniversary of its creation. Created on 8 November 1994 by resolution 955 of the United Nations Security Council to try the organizers of the genocide, the tribunal held its first hearing in January 1997. It has indicted 90 persons, 76 have been arrested, 34 have been tried, 28 are currently on trial. By the end of the year, the tribunal will have cost more than a billion dollars.

© Hirondelle News Agency