Arusha, 08 September, 2008 (FH) - The 20th defence witness of former Rwandan Army Officer, Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, in a joint trial for 1994 genocide and crimes against humanity with his three other colleagues, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday that the accused overwhelmingly supported the Arusha Peace Accord signed on August 3, 1993, which was geared at averting a civil war in the tiny central African country.

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The witness only known as "N1" to protect his identity asserted that Major Nzuwonemeye was positive as far as the Peace Accord was concerned.  At the time of genocide, Major Nzuwonemeye was the Commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion.

Other defendants in the trial are: Deputy Commander of Reconnaissance Battalion, Captain Innocent Sagahutu (who will be next and the last accused to stand in the dock) and two former Chiefs of Staffs of the Army, General Augustin Bizimungu and that of the Gendarmerie National, Augustin Ndindiliyimana, both of whom have already completed their defence testimonies before the Tribunal.

The witness, led by the accused's Lead Counsel Charles Taku from Cameroon, said the defendant was his neighbour, who used to visit each other; shared drinks and on occasions would drive home together from work.

According to "NI" who actively participated in the Arusha Peace Accord negotiations, and took part in the abortive implementation of the Accord, explained that the general mood of senior Rwandan  Army Officers was equally positive toward the peace process, which was seeking reconciliation among all warring Rwandan parties.

Although the witness did not directly link Major Nzuwonemeye with accusations against him, he alleged that he met the defendant on April 7, 1994, a few hours following the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, who was killed in a plane crash.

In the same plane was killed Burundi's President Cyprien Ntaryamira. Both were returning from a regional peace meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.  Unknown assailants fired a missile which brought down Habyarimana's plane.

The protected witness said he met the accused after attending a meeting at the Senior Military Officers College (ESM). Part of the testimony was held in closed session.

The hearing continues with the Cross Examination of witness "N1" by the Prosecution. The case resumed after adjournment for about two months.

All three accused have denied the charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The trial commenced September, 2004.


© Hirondelle News Agency