16.04.08 - ICTR/ GOVT II - EX-RWANDAN ENVOY TO SWITZERLAND DEFENDS GENOCIDE ACCUSED MINISTER

Arusha, 16 April 2008 (FH) - The former Rwandan Ambassador to Switzerland, Augustin Karamage claimed before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Tuesday that the feed back he was getting from the Rwandan authorities during the 1994 genocide was that the government was powerless to stop violence across the country.

 

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The diplomat was testifying in defense of the former Rwandan Minister of Civil Service, Prosper Mugiraneza, who is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity alongside three other ministers in a joint trial. The three other ministers are: Jerome Bicamumpaka, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Casimir Bizimungu, ex-Minister for Health and Justin Mugenzi., former Minister for Commerce.

They all have pleaded not guilty.

The envoy told the court that even the then Interim President Theodore Sindikubwabo while on a stopover in Switzerland in May 1994, informed of the similar situation of rapid deterioration and that the government was not in a position to control the escalation of killings, mostly of civilians .

Led by Mugiraneza's American lead Council, Tom Moram, the diplomat said he was surprised to learn that a month after the tragic death of former Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994 the government did not make any headway to contain the spontaneous killings.

The former ministers who also gave the envoy same impression of deterioration are Bicamumpaka (foreign) and Bizimungu (health).

Ambassador Karamage recalled that sometimes later the accused Mugiraneza had asked to facilitate his exit from the country as the authorities suspected him as being a Tutsi, who were labeled as accomplices of the former Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels fighting against the government forces.

"I could not manage to assist him as i did not have the means to do so,"' he informed the trial chamber, presided by Judge Khalida Khan from Pakistan.

However, the Ambassador said he continued his contacts with Mugiraneza, who was his childhood friend and college mate at the National University of Rwanda, until the former minister's arrest in Cameroon, where he was living after fleeing Rwanda.

Ambassador Karamage, who is the 28 defense witness for Mugiraneza, stopped his diplomatic assignment in late July, 1994 and has since acquired a Swiss citizenship. The case which started in November 2003 continued Wednesday. It resumed on Monday after an Easter recess adjournment on March 20, this year.

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