Arusha, 29 October, 2008 (FH) - A protected prosecution witness who had testified some four years ago in a joint trial of six genocide suspects popularly known as ‘Butare Trial', Wednesday shocked the UN Courtroom when he confessed that he had lied during his testimony.

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"I gave false testimony and I have highly regretted since then," said prosecution witness code-named "QA" as everybody in the courtroom heard in complete disbelief, at least for the prosecution side. However, he did not elaborate what motivated him to lie before the UN Court.

The witness gave evidence before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on March 18, 22 and 23, 2004.

"I promise, this time I will speak the truth but previously I told lies," insisted QA before the three-bench judges led by William Sekule of Tanzania. The rest of the hearing was in closed session.

The Chamber in its ruling dated 28 October, 2008, granted a motions filed by two accused-- Joseph Kanyabashi, former Mayor of Ngoma commune and Sylvain Nsabimana, former Governor-- who wanted to cross examine witness QA on additional topics as they had suspected that he had lied before the court.

The witness made the confession shortly before the Lead Counsel for Kanyabashi, Michel Marchand from Canada took the floor to re-examine him

According to the Statute of ICTR, telling lies under solemn declaration was an offence and was punishable. It was not yet clear what action was considered by the Chamber against QA for his false testimony.

In the trial of Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, former Minister for Education, a protected prosecution witness dubbed "GAA" was sentenced to nine months imprisonment last December for contempt of court after being found guilty of giving false evidence under solemn declaration. In the past, the defence has lamented that witnesses were ‘coached' to lie by Rwandan authorities, but the argument has been dismissed as "baseless".

Others jointly accused in the trial are: Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former Minister for Family and Women Affairs and her son, Arsen Shalom Ntahobali and Alphonse Nteziryayo, a former Governor of Butare. Nteziryayo, who suddenly fell sick on Monday, was still indisposed Wednesday.

The trial, which started in June 2001, was the longest and largest before the UN Court.

All have pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity.


© Hirondelle News Agency