Arusha, 15 December 2007 (FH) - The former chief of staff of the Rwandan army, General Augustin Bizimungu, rested his case Friday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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Accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Bizimungu, 55, had been testifying on his own behalf for two weeks.

The chamber however authorized him to introduce three additional witnesses in common with two of his three co-defendants. One of them is the French historian Bernard Lugan. The judges, on the other hand, refused that he call a military expert, his request having been filed passed the deadline.

The proceedings were adjourned until 16 January 2007 because of the end of year legal holidays.

At the resumption, it is the former chief of staff of the gendarmerie, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, who will call witnesses for his defence.

Bizimungu and Ndindiliyimana are on trial alongside Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, two officers of the recognition battalion, one of the elite units of the former Rwandan army. All have pleaded not guilty.

In his testimony, General Bizimungu affirmed that he had done everything to stop the massacres but that the he lacked the means.

He explained why he had decided to refuse a cease-fire with the rebels which would have made it possible to free troops to restore order.

General Bizimungu indicated that even the gendarmes, whose principal mission is to ensure law and order, were engaged in combat.

This trial, known as Military II, was one of the two cases which held proceedings during the week at the ICTR.

The second, Butare (six defendants), was held mainly in closed session. It was adjourned Wednesday. The hearings will resume 21 January 2008. It is the oldest trial at the ICTR. It started in June 2001. In closing the session, the presiding judge, William Sekule (Tanzania), asked the defence counsels to rest their cases by next July. The second to last defendant is almost half way through his case. He is at the 11th witness on a list that counts thirty.

The defendants are Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister for the Family and Women's Development, her son, Arsène Ntahobali, alleged militia leader, the former prefects Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Ntezilyayo and the former mayors Joseph Kanyabashi and Elie Ndayambaje. The latter will be the last defendant to present his case.

© Hirondelle News Agency