03.09.08 - RWANDA/JUSTICE - MURDER OF CLERGYMEN WERE REPRISALS, AFFIRM RWANDAN OFFICERS

Kigali, 3 September 2008 (FH) - The behaviour of the clergymen and their collaboration with the planners and the authors of the genocide pushed certain soldiers of the 157th battalion of the Rwandan Patriotic Army to exert reprisals against them, affirmed the defence during the resumption, Tuesday, of the trial of the RPF soldiers accused of having murdered 14 clergymen, including 4 bishops, in Gitarama in June 1994.
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"The behaviour of certain clergymen and their collaboration with the genocidaires pushed soldier Fred Nyagatare to convince his comrades to commit reprisals against the latter to avenge his family that was decimated during the 1994 genocide", stated the lawyer Shema by calling only one defence witness.

The witness in question, a refugee in Kabgayi until 2 June 1994, stated that he had seen Tutsis dying under the encouraging glance of the religious officials. "To the Tutsi Brothers about to be killed, Msgr. Thaddée Nsengiyumva said "Courage! If you die, you will go straight to the heaven!" And I always saw Archbishop Vincent Nsengiyumva, with a rifle, in his marked car "MRND", explained the witness.

Brigadier General Wilson Gumisiriza and Major Wilson Ukwishaka, Captains John Butera and Dieudonné Rukeba are accused of having murdered, on 5 June 1994, 15 clergymen, including Archbishop Vincent Nsengiyumva, in Gakurazo, in the former commune of Mukingi, when they were members of the 157th battalion of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA).

If General Gumisiriza and Major Ukwishaka pleaded not guilty, Captains Rukeba and Butera admitted their responsibility in "the death squad".

On Tuesday, during the testimony of 4 prosecution witnesses, called with the intention to prove that it was always possible to prevent this crime, all accused that nothing beforehand predicted such an incident.

Soldier Janvier Murenzi and Mrs. Jocelyne Uwurukundo, surprised in the room with the victims, spoke about a briefing meeting on the security situation to which the killers ended. Brother Ambroise Kabagema, as for him, stated that each time there were new refugees, there were always briefing meetings held.

Surprised by the gusts, a patrol, to which Jean Pierre Murobafi belonged and who made rounds around the monastery, carried out a rapid intervention and one of the killers, Eugene Kabandana, died on site, according to this witness. "Two things surprised me that evening: taken for the enemy that we fight against, a comrade fell under our bullets; but worse still, comrades killed clergymen who we were all charged to protect", Murobafi stated during a cross-examination.

According to all these witnesses, Major Ukwishaka, a few hours later, and General Gumisiriza, the following day, held confidence status meeting and began the investigation. "Fred Nyagatare, the instigator of the crime, died later on the battle field", confided to the Hirondelle Agency the witness Murobafi

The next hearing was scheduled for 10 September for the testimony of other defence witnesses of which "we await evidence to provide extenuating circumstances to our clients", indicated to the court Shema.

SRE/ER/PB/MM

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