06.02.08 - ICTR/MILITARY II - DEFENSE RAISES ALLEGED RPF CRIMES BEFORE UN COURT

Arusha, 6 February 2008 (FH) - The Defence and the Prosecution Wednesday were once again locked in arguments over the alleged crimes committed by the former Rwandan rebellion(Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF),now in power in Kigali, in a joint trial before the International Criminal Court for Rwanda (ICTR) of four former top army officers accused of participating in the 1994 genocide.
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The debate re-surfaced in the trial known as "Military II " when a defence lawyer brought up the issue of the alleged war crimes of RPF between 1990 and 1994.

Christopher Black, Canadian lawyer defending the former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Gendarmerie General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, questioned a protected defence witness, a former gendarme over RPF's role in 1990s.

The witness claimed before the UN Court that the former rebellion committed tortures in Mutare, eastern Rwanda.

The representative of the prosecutor, Segun Jegede from Nigeria strongly opposed the line of questioning, saying the defence was diverting the facts facing the accused.

Mr. Black responded that the witnessed testimony corroborated his theory according to which "the majority of the massacres committed in Rwanda in 1994, and even before this date, were the work of the RPF".

The prosecutor accuses civil and military officials of the former Rwandan government, including General Ndindiliyimana, to have planned the genocide which resulted in nearly 800,000 deaths in 1994.

Ndindiliyimana and his co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.

"You cannot base yourself on the behaviour of others as a defence", underlined Segun Jegede.

The Cameroonian lawyer Charles Taku, who represents the former commander of the recognition battalion, Major François Nzuwonemeye, one of the co-defendants, had however time to suggest that "if the prosecutor recognizes that the RPF committed offences, that means that he admits the evidence that we presented on this subject".

The proceedings in the trial are often focused on the alleged crimes of the RPF, which was at war against the governmental army between 1990 and 1994.

Ndindiliyimana and Nzuwonemeye are on trial alongside the former chief of staff of the army, General Augustin Bizimungu, and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, an assistant of Nzuwonemeye.

Their trial started in September 2004

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