Arusha, 2 December 2008 (FH) - The closing arguments in the trial of four former ministers before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), began Monday with the closing arguments of the prosecutor and Tuesday it will be the defence's turn.

1 min 40Approximate reading time

The case involves former ministers Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce) and Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service).

On Monday, the prosecutor tried to point out that the government in power from April to July 1994 had the means of stopping the genocide but they did not try anything to stop the massacres. They chose to do nothing. If they had wanted to, they would have done so. They did not have any intention of stopping the massacres, claimed Paul N'garua, representing the Office of Prosecutor (OTP).

The Kenyan magistrate indicated that in addition to the authority on the personnel of their respective departments, the defendants exerted a de facto control on "the administrative authorities, militiamen, police, gendarmes and soldiers".

For him, the argument according to which they were powerless vis-à-vis the situation is "ridiculous". On the contrary, he said, "they added fuel on the fire" by their inflammatory speeches which some were relayed via Radio libre des mille collines (RTLM). "

N'garua explained that at the road blocks, the Interahamwe militiamen always had their ear on their radios to listen for instructions from their leaders.

During the massacres, the armed civilians acted in accordance with the instructions of the four accused. There was an intention to destroy Tutsis for the defence of the fatherland, he added. N'garua supported that during the massacres, each killer was convinced to belong to "a vast battalion of Hutus, a kind of abstract army under the command of the four accused".

The purpose of the peace messages launched through international media by officials of the interim government were, according to him, only to mislead the international community on their true intention, "a joint criminal enterprise" aiming at exterminating Tutsis.

The prosecution team will request the sentences during the last phase, which will last until the end of the week.

Reacting first, Michelyne Saint Laurent, Bizimungu's main counsel, invited the Chamber "to speak of law", without pleasing anyone. "It is not easy to defend the indefensible", said the Canadian lawyer, considering that the prosecutor had not proven beyond any reasonable doubt the guilt of the defendants.

On trial for crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, the four former ministers have claimed their innocence. Their trial began in November 2003. The closing arguments should end Friday.


© Hirondelle News Agency