Arusha, 25 November 2008 (FH) - Opened last week before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), defence of Callixte Kalimanzira, former Cabinet Director of Interior Ministry, is unwinding at a record pace, with 15 witnesses called in five days and half of hearings.

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Only on Monday and Tuesday, seven people paraded to the stand. The majority of them, on the whole, were heard in closed session.

On his initial list, Arthur Vercken, Kalimanzira's main counsel, had 71 witnesses, including the defendant; but the French lawyer does not rule out excluding some of them.

These witnesses come from Rwanda and of the Rwandan Diaspora, the defender hinted to the Hirondelle Agency, by specifying that his list does not include any expert witnesses.

Vercken affirms that the people called by his team "go straight to the point", while testifying "directly on the questions which interest the Chamber", which would explain this rapid pace.

At the start of the defence case on 17 November, the lawyer had raised the point that his client faced "a multitude of 53 micro charges distributed on nearly 3 months in 5 large communes" of the Butare prefecture, in southern Rwanda.

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

The defendant, an agronomist by training, ensured in April and May 1994 the operations of the ministry of the interior. The minister, for whom he was the cabinet director, had not returned to Rwanda after the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana.

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 June 30 after having called 24 witnesses in 16 days of hearings.


© Hirondelle News Agency