Arusha, 9 May 2008 (FH) - A protected witness who was to re-testify before the Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to confess to false testimony, suddenly disappeared on Tuesday just some few hours before his appearance.

3 min 8Approximate reading time

Tanzanian police in collaboration with the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) security have launched a manhunt for the controversial witness.

The witness was scheduled to re-testify over his own admission to have given a false testimony before the UN Court, trying key suspects of the 1994 genocide.

Known only by code" GFA ", the witness disappeared while he was under guard of Tanzanian police supervised by tribunal officers.

The ICTR spokesman, Roland Amoussouga, said efforts were underway to track down the witness. "ICTR and host government are making necessary efforts to locate him [witness]", he said.

Arusha Regional Police Commander Basilio Matei told Hirondelle Agency that initial investigations indicated that the witness jumped over the wall of the safe house while in his routine jogging.

However, the witness left a note saying that he was going to his girl friend's place, without giving her name or location. The note also said that he had requested for $400 to be sent to his family which he never got. According to the letter, the witness had expected to stay for only two weeks in Arusha, but was not the case.

GFA had testified for the prosecution in several trials currently in progress at the ICTR, including on-going Government II trial, which brings together in a joint case of four former Rwandan ministers accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in 1994.The four ministers are: Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs). All have pleaded not guilty.

Recently , GFA contacted Bicamumpaka's defence team and admitted that he had lied in his statement so as to get released from prison in Rwanda, where he was facing 1994 genocide charges The Chamber had authorized the defence team to meet GFA in the presence of a member of the prosecution team in a meeting which took place in Kampala, Uganda.

On his arrival in Arusha for his re-testimony, GFA was warned by the Chamber of the legal risks he faces of false testimony. He then asked for a brief postponement of the testimony.

Meanwhile before the same trial, a former Belgian envoy to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, Johann Swinnen, Thursday deplored before the lack of serious investigations into the attack against the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994 which triggered the genocide.

Habyarimana died in the plane shoot-out by unknown assailants near the capital, Kigali. He was returning from a regional peace meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Also killed in the plane was Burundi's President, Cyprien Ntaryamira.

The Security Council had ordered an investigation into the attack which never materialized, the envoy said in his testimony for the defence of Jerome Bicamumpaka.

"It always astonishes me that we did not succeed in carrying out serious investigation leading to results", stressed the diplomat. "I will be the last to affirm what may have happened. We must have intellectual, moral and political honesty to admit that many things have not been answered yet", he added. The trial continues next week.

In another trial known as "Karemera" case which involves three former politicians, a defence witness blasted the prosecuting attorney of male chauvinism.

Protected by the pseudonym "XQL", a former Rwandan senior civil servant and official of the presidential party MRND was asked whether she was a former fiancee to Juvenal Habyarimana, the former Head of State. The question asked by the prosecuting attorney Ian Morley (Ireland) caused uproar in the court room and was regarded as "scandalous" by all defence teams.

XQL came to testify in favour of Edouard Karemera, former vice-president of the MRND presidential party, one of the defendants in the trial which started in September 2005.

Karemera is accused alongside Joseph Nzirorera and Mathieu Ngirumpatse, secretary-general and president respectively of the former presidential party.

This week also saw the start of a new trial of Callixte Kalimanzira, a former high ranking Rwandan civil servant accused of 1994 genocide.

The Prosecution alleged that the suspect is key architect of mass killings in Butare Province, southern Rwanda. "The accused participated in the genocidal campaigns in Butare Prefecture," claimed the prosecuting attorney, Christine Graham, before presiding Judge Dennis Byron of Saint Kitts, who is also president of the ICTR.

She further added Kalimanzira, 55, was an influential member of the then ruling National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) party and long term civil servant, who also had the privilege of good education.

Kalimanzira, an agronomist by training, was director of the rural development section at the Presidency, secretary-general and then, cabinet director at the ministry of the interior. From April to May 1994, he headed the ministry of the interior on interim basis.

The trial continues next week.


© Hirondelle News Agency