Arusha, 30 June 2008 (FH) - Rwandan Reconnaissance Battalion was never involved in the killings of ten UN peacekeepers from Belgium during the 1994 genocide, a witness, a former member of the elite brigade, claimed before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday.

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‘'The reconnaissance soldiers never participated in the 1994 genocide'', the protected witness, code named "K4'' for his own safety, said in the Examination-in- Chief for the defence of Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, former Commander of Rwandan Reconnaissance Battalion, who is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, alongside three other senior army officers in the joint trial, known as "Military II''.

Led by Nzuwonemeye's Cameroonian lead counsel, Charles Taku, further asserted that the troops had no hand in the killings of the Belgians soldiers, charged with the protection of the former Prime Minster, Agathe Uwingiliyimana killed with them on April 7. According to UN estimates, about 800,000 people were killed, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The Belgium soldiers, he alleged, were likely killed by the Rwandan wounded troops at the Kigali Military Camp .

Some prosecution witnesses have alleged that soldiers of the reconnaissance battalion actively took part in the April-July massacres-one of the worst forms of human killings-- under the orders of their Camp Commandant, Major Nzuwonemeye.

In response to Counsel Taku's question as to why the witness decided to testify for the defence of his former boss, "K4" said: "He (accused) was a dedicated person who will give advice to his fellow officers and soldiers alike without discrimination."

The witness was later being cross examined by the prosecution.

Two defendants in the trial -- former Chiefs of Staff of Gendarmerie and that of the Army, Generals Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Augustin Bizimungu respectively-have already concluded their defence.

The forth accused, Major Nzuwonemeye's Deputy Commander, Captain Innocent Sagahutu, has not yet started his defence.

The accused have pleaded not guilty. The trial began in September 2004.


© Hirondelle News Agency