Arusha, 18 February 2008 (FH) - To have been a member of the interim government in power during the 1994 genocide is not a crime in itself, claimed a defence lawyer Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), trying key suspects of the April-July laughter.

1 min 49Approximate reading time

"The simple fact of belonging to the interim government does not suggest membership to a criminal organization", claimed Tom Moran who represents the former minister of the Civil Service, Prosper Mugiraneza, who has began his defence case.

He is on trial alongside three other colleagues for genocide and crimes against humanity. All have pleaded not guilty.

"The prosecutor could not show that the interim government as a whole took part in a planned criminal enterprise", explained Moran, an American lawyer. He added that the prosecution had not either proven that the
government, or any other which preceded it would have planned or Intended to plan the genocide.

Mr Moran indicated that the only evidence in the case came from experts and he argued that, from a legal standpoint, their opinions do not have any value. Among the experts called by the prosecution included the
American historian and human rights activist Alison Des Forges who, inter alia, testified that the Rwandan government had defined the so-called "enemy" as Tutsi, according to her.

Mr Moran announced that on this subject he would call Lieutenant-Colonel Geoffery Corn, former military intelligence official in the United States and former magistrate, who will affirm that to define the enemy in times of war was not a violation of an international law.

The four ministers are also prosecuted for incitement to genocide. "People hear what they expect to hear", stressed Moran.

Besides these experts, Mugiraneza and his defence team plan to call several witnesses, including some alibi witnesses. The latter should in particular prove that the defendant had remained in Kigali from 6 to 12
April 1994, before going to Gitarama, central Rwanda, with the interim government and that he could thus not have been in his native region of Kibungo, eastern Rwanda, where he would have taken part in the massacres as claimed by the prosecution.

Mr Moran argued that prosecution witnesses contradicted themselves, displayed a lapse in memory or quite simply lied.

Mugiraneza has on his witness list survivors of various massacres which he is accused of, according to Moran.

"We believe that the result of all this will lead us to two things: to cause reasonable doubt concerning the credibility of the prosecution witnesses in regard to the Mugiraneza's actions and those of the interim
government; to cause reasonable doubt concerning the guilt of Mugiraneza", concluded the lawyer.

Mugiraneza is on trial alongside his colleagues Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Justin Mugenzi (Trade) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs). He is the last to call defence witnesses. Their trial began on 6 November 2003.

© Hirondelle Agency