Arusha, 17 November 2008 (FH) - Callixte Kalimanzira, a former high ranking official of the Rwandan administration, accused of genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), started Monday presentation of his defence case, which is expected to last three weeks.

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Kalimanzira, an agronomist by training, assumed in April and May 1994, management of the Ministry of Interior. The minister, for whom he was the cabinet director, did not return to Rwanda after the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana.

The prosecution is "fragile because is not very credible ... it has voluntarily selected to build its building on quick sand", attacked in its opening statement, Arthur Vercken, Kalimanzira's lawyer.

The French defence lawyer raised the point that in the trial of a former senior official, the prosecutor had called as witnesses 13 farmers, 2 small business people, some modest workmen and a taxi-motorbike driver. It is, he said, "a multitude of 53 micro charges distributed on nearly 3 months in 5 large communes of Rwanda". "The defence, he regretted, had 4 months and half to investigate in quasi-complete obscurity (...) into 14-year old facts".

"More than half of the witnesses (for the prosecution) were sentenced to lengthy sentences in Rwanda, six are still imprisoned" underlined the lawyer who denounced "the enormous pressure which weighs in this country on the prisoners and the citizens".

"Callixte Kalimanzira surrendered voluntarily to the Tanzanian authorities (on 8 November 2005) when he learned that he was wanted by the ICTR (...) He did not flee justice, he preceded the call when the prosecutor announced that he wished to hear him", explained Vercken.

"To enter in the conviction process against Kalimanzira, it is to make an exaction, an injustice", concluded Vercken before calling the first witness which the essence of the testimony proceeded in closed session.

The trial opened on 5 May. Kalimanzira, who has pleaded not guilty, is prosecuted for genocide, complicity in the genocide, direct and public incitement to commit the genocide.

The prosecutor rested his case on 30 June after having called 24 witnesses in 16 days of hearings. The most serious facts relate to the role which he would have played in the massacre of thousands of Tutsis who had sought refuge on Kabuye Hill, in the sub-prefecture of Gisagara (prefecture of Butare) towards the end of April 1994.

"The Tutsi refugees approached him, asked him for help but instead of that, he encouraged the attackers to continue the massacre", affirmed Christine Graham (Sweden), of the office of the prosecutor, at the opening of the lawsuit.

Committed by soldiers, Interahamwe militiamen and Burundian refugees, the Kabuye slaughters lasted several days, according to the prosecution.

In the prefecture of Butare, the genocide started only towards the end April 1994 after a public meeting in which several members of the interim government took part, including the President Theodore Sindikubwabo and the Prime Minister Jean Kambanda.

Many specialists support that the speeches made at this 19 April 1994 meeting invited Hutus of Butare to begin the massacres of Tutsis.

For the office of the prosecutor, Kalimanzira, who was the master of ceremony that day, entirely gave his support to the speakers. The defendant came from the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), the presidential party of the time.


© Hirondelle News Agency