Kigali, October 10, 2008 (FH) - The prosecution and defence teams in a joint trial of four former Rwandan ministers who underwent a week-long sites visit in Rwanda, alongside the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), have said that the tour has strengthened their cases.

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The accused in the case, also known as ‘Government II Trial', are former ministers, Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce) and Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service). They all have denied charges of genocide and crimes against humanity leveled against them.

"The sites visit was very interesting and had demonstrated the innocence of my client," alleged the British lawyer, Jonathan Kirk, co-counsel for the accused Justin Mugenzi in an interview with Hirondelle Agency.

Canadian lead defence Counsel for Bizimungu, Michelyne St. Laurent, said that the tour was important" as it tested the credibility of witnesses about the areas they testified about."

"As for me the sites visit is the confirmation of witnesses' testimony," she insisted adding: "Every Chamber should be given a chance to visit the [alleged] crimes sites."

Commenting about the visit ICTR Senior Trial Attorney, Kenyan Paul Ng'arwa, said he was very happy because it underpins all the evidence.

"It definitely strengthens the analysis of our case," he said, hinting that almost all points of contention argued during the trial were actually clarified mostly on his favor.

On Wednesday and Thursday the last day of the visit, which started in October 6, 2008, the judges and the parties covered a total distance of 400 kilometers from Kigali town to eight other areas of alleged massacre sites.

The areas visited included Murambi Centre, Misizi, Hotel Tourisme and Muramba secondary school, all in Nyarubuye province wheas in Gisenyi province they visited the former Palm Beach Hotel building, Bishop's house, conference hall of the former MRND ruling party in 1994 known as Palais Du MRND and Umuganda stadium.

Parties to the case are expected to file their closing briefs before November, 2008.

The entourage was led by President of Trial Chamber III, Judge Khalida Khan (Pakistan) who declined to comment over the tour. Others Judges were, Lee Muthoga from Kenya and Francis Shorts from Ghana.

The Trial started in November 2003.


© Hirondelle News Agency