Arusha, 2 May 2008 (FH) - The month of May will unveil the opening of a new trial and closing arguments in two cases at the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The trial which will begin is that of Callixte Kalimanzira, 55, a former cabinet director at the Rwandan ministry of the interior on 5 May. It will be the first trial to begin since June 2007.

Kalimanzira faces charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. He has pleaded not guilty. He is particularly accused of having played main role in the massacre of more than 20, 000 ethnic Tutsis who had taken refuge on Kabuye Hill in Butare, in southern Rwanda, in 1994.

His trial was initially scheduled to start on 28 April, but it was deferred because of the difficulties in the composition of the chamber. He is before a chamber presided by Judge Dennis Byron of Saint-Kitts and Nevis, who is also the ICTR President.

Kalimanzira surrendered to the ICTR on 8 November 2005, in obscure circumstances. He is defended by Arthur Vercken and Anta Guisse from France.

The cases which will hear the closing arguments for the month of May are Protais Zigiranyirazo, a former Rwandan businessman (on the 26th) and Simon Bikindi, a former musician (28th and 29th).

Zigiranyirazo, known as Mr. Z, is a brother-in-law of former President Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death on 6 April 1994, during an attack against his plane, sparked the genocide. Arrested on 26 July 2001 in Brussels, Zigiranyirazo, 70, has been on trial since 3 October 2005.

Zigiranyirazo is before a chamber presided by Judge Ines Monica de Roca (Argentina), assisted by Khalida Rachid Khan (Pakistan) and Lee Gacuiga Muthoga (Kenya).

The chamber moved to Rwanda last November to visit the alleged places of massacres. The crimes charged against Zigiranyirazo were committed in Kigali and his native region of Gisenyi, north-western Rwanda.

Zigiranyirazo, who has pleaded not guilty, called 41 witnesses for his defence; the prosecution, for its part, called 24.

The argument of the prosecution is that the planning of the genocide was done by the akazu (small house in Kinyarwanda), a circle composed of close acquaintances of the former president, which Mr Z been at the centre of it. The defence pleaded that the concept akazu is an invention by opponents with an aim of discrediting the Habyarimana regime.

Zigiranyirazo was Governor of Kibuye, western Rwanda, and Ruhengeri, northern Rwanda, between 1974 and 1989. He thereafter became a businessman. The prosecution alleges that, although he had not been part of the central administration for several years, Zigiranyirazo had exerted an influence on senior civil servants and officers of the army until 1994 because of his relationship with the presidential family. The defence refutes these allegations. Zigiranyirazo is defended by two Canadian lawyers: John Philpot and Peter Zaduk.

Bikindi, 54, is a well-known musician. Arrested in Holland on 12 July 2001, he is accused of having encouraged the genocide through his songs. He has pleaded not guilty. His trial began on 18 September 2006. The chamber that is trying him went to Rwanda from 14 to 18 April 2008 to visit the places mentioned in the indictment. Defended by Andreas O' Shea (South Africa) and Jean de Dieu Momo (Cameroon), Bikindi is being tried by a chamber presided by Argentine Judge Ines Weinberg de Roca, assisted by Cameroonian Florence Rita Arrey and Czech Robert Fremr. The prosecution rested its case 22 on February 2007 and the defence on 7 November.

The Tribunal will also continue in May the proceedings in Butare, Government II and Karemera trials. Butare, with six defendants, is the oldest case of those that are currently on going at the ICTR. It started in June 2001. It is the fifth defendant who is presenting his case. Government II, which involves four former ministers, for its part, started in November 2003. It is the last defendant who is presenting his case.

The Karemera Trial, with three defendants, all leaders of the former governing party of Rwanda (MRND) in 1994. The defence has just begun its case. The trial is expected to last beyond 31 December 2008, the scheduled date for the end of all the first instance trials.

Finally, the Military II trial will resume this month; it has been suspended since 6 March. It will resume on 26 May. It begun on 20 September 2004, the trial involves four high ranking officers of the former Rwandan army, including two Chiefs of Staff. The second defendant is presenting his defence case.


© Hirondelle News Agency