Arusha, 15 January 2008 (FH) - Colonel Luc Marchal, former number two of the United Nations Forces in Rwanda, will Wednesday be the first witness to testify for General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan gendarmerie, who will begin to present his defence before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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Colonel Marchal, currently retired, was the assistant of General Romeo Dallaire, who was the head of the United Nations force in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

He has already testified in 2007 for genocide accused General Gratien Kabiligi, former official for the operations of the chief of staff of the army, in the Military I trial.

Ndindiliyimana is the second defendant in this trial, known as Military II.

Sixty-nine witnesses have been listed for Ndindiliyimana's defence although the chamber has asked for short listing of the witnesses.

General Ndindiliyimana is defended by Christopher Black (Canada) and François Lurquin (Belgium).

The proceedings in the trial, which opened in September 2005, were marked by strong exchanges of words between the two parties.

The Canadian lawyer Christopher Black has also often accused the tribunal for failing to prosecute the Rwandan Patriotic Front(RPF) soldiers of the alleged atrocities committed during the 1994 genocide, including the alleged attack against the plane of the then President Juvenal Habyarimana.

Habyarimana was killed in the plane attack.

Until last December, it was General Augustin Bizimungu, former chief of staff of the army, who was presenting his defence.

Two other defendants, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, who commanded the recognition battalion, an elite unit of the former Rwandan army, and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who was the head of a company within this battalion, will be the next to present their defences .

The four top army officers are accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 1994. They have pleaded not guilty.

The trial, which began in September 2004, is presided by Sri Lankan Judge Joseph Asoka de Silva, assisted by Judge Taghrid Hikmet(Jordan) and Judge Seon Si Park (South Korea).

© Agence Hirondelle