Arusha, 1 February, 2008 (FH) - Four trials were in progress this week before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), trying key suspects of the 1994 genocide.

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The trials underway are: "Military II", "Government II", "Butare" and Hormisdas Nsengimana. The first three trials were presenting their defence witnesses.

The "Military II" trial involves four officers, including two former chiefs of staff (army and gendarmerie).

It is the former chief of staff of the gendarmerie, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, who is calling witnesses in his defence.

One of the witnesses this week stated that the defendant did not incite ethnic hatred, contrary to the prosecutor's allegations.

The protected witness known only as "CBL 105" is a former gendarme. He stated that he had attended two meetings chaired by Ndindiliyimana during which he had insisted on discipline.

He explained that at no time he had heard him make any heinous remarks. Ndindiliyimana was chief of staff of the gendarmerie between 1992 and 1994.

On trial since September 2004, General Ndindiliyimana is on trial alongside with General Augustin Bizimungu, former chief of staff of the army and Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, both ex-officers in elite units of the former Rwandan army(FAR) posted in the capital, Kigali.

Prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, all have pleaded not guilty.

The "Government II" trial involves, four former ministers during the genocide. It is in progress since November 2003. This week, the third defendant, former Foreign Minister Jerome Bicamumpaka, was presenting his defence case.

He was defended by a Belgian diplomat, Jean Ghiste, who represented the francophone community of his country in Rwanda and Burundi in 1990s.

Ghiste said that he had met Bicamumpaka in mid-April, 1994 in Burundi.

According to the witness, he had observed in the former minister a will to have a support of the international community to be able to establish a dialogue between the government and the armed opposition and put an end to the war and massacres.

Bicamumpaka is on trial with three of his colleagues who were in the interim government-- Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Justin Mugenzi (Trade) and Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service). Mugiraneza has yet to present his defence.

The trial known as "Butare", an area in the south of Rwanda, started in June 2001. It involves six defendants and the largest of all trials at the UN Court. The fifth defendant is presenting his defence. The proceedings are most of the time in closed session.

The prosecution is about to rest its case in the trial of Hormisdas Nsengimana , a catholic priest and former head of the prestigious College of Christ the King in Nyanza, near Butare, accused of genocide . He has pleaded not guilty.
The trial started in June 2006.

© Hirondelle News Agency