27.12.07 - ICTR/JUDGMENTS - FOUR NEW JUDGEMENTS AGAINST RWANDA GENOCIDE ACCUSED EXPECTED IN APRIL

Arusha, 27 December 2007 (FH) - Four judgements of Rwanda genocide suspects on trial before the Arusha-based UN court are expected to be ready by April next year, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) President, Dennis Byron.
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"We expect to be ready with at least four judgments before April (2008)," he told Hirondelle News Agency. He added that the speeding up of the judgements was part of the completion strategy of the ad hoc tribunal as ordered by the United Nations Security Council.

The UN has set a deadline of completing all pending cases by December 2008 and appeals by 2010.

The tribunal was set up in November 2004 to try key perpetrators of the 1994 killings which, according to the UN estimates, claimed lives of more of more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Among awaited judgements include that of Colonel Theoneste Bagosora in the joint trial with three other senior army commanders.

Col. Bagosora, then Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, is alleged to have masterminded the killings and usurped powers after the killing of the President Juvenal Habyarimana in a plane crash near the capital, Kigali, by unknown assailants on April 6, 1994.
Although, he was present at the negotiations of the Arusha (Tanzania) Peace Accords in August, 1993, Bagosora allegedly never supported them and is widely cited as saying, once everything was signed, that he was returning to Rwanda to prepare for the apocalypse. Luc Marchal, a Belgian Colonel, who was Romeo Dallaire's (then UN Commander) Kigali sector commander, reported that Bagosora told him that the only way to solve Rwanda's problems was to get rid of the ethnic Tutsi.

Bagosora is alleged to have been responsible for establishing paramilitary ‘self-defense' units, the notorious pro-Hutu Interahamwe, that operated in every commune in the tiny central African republic. Bagosora was also responsible for distributing arms and machetes throughout Rwanda.

The other three accused in the so-called "Military Trial" are Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, former Commander of Military operations in Gisenyi sector, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, former Commander of Para-Commando Battalion and Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi, former Chief of Military Operations.

It is the first time top military figures were brought before the tribunal, and the prosecution hopes this might help shed some light on how the Rwandan army leadership plotted the killings.

All four accused have pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The other judgement expected is in the case of Simeon Nshamihigo,ex-Deputy Prosecutor in Cyangugu prefecture.

The suspect had been working as a defense investigator for the war crimes tribunal under a Congolese passport and the name Sammy Bahati Weza. He was arrested by Tanzanian police and handed over to the UN tribunal in May 2001.

Judge Byron said that the judgements against Tharcisse Renzaho, former Mayor of Kigali, and Protais Zigiranyirazo (Mr 'Z'), ex-businessman and a brother-in-law of President Habyarimana, are also scheduled to be ready before April, next year.

"Two other judgements of musician Simon Bikindi and military chaplain Emmanuel Rukundo, are expected to be ready before first half of next year", added the ICTR President. All accused have pleaded not guilty.

The UN court has so far rendered 35 judgements , including five acquittals.

Currently 28 detainees are on trial and six new cases are expected to start next year.

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© Hirondelle News Agency