Arusha, 5 December 2008 (FH) - The trial of four Rwandan former ministers accused of crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity closed Friday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) following five days of closing arguments.

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The former ministers of foreign affairs, Jérôme Bicamumpaka, of health, Casimir Bizimungu, of commerce, Justin Mugenzi, and of civil service, Prosper Mugiraneza, appeared since November 2003.

Before closing the proceedings, the Chamber chaired by Pakistani Khalida Rashid Khan heard the reactions of the defence teams to the conclusions of the prosecutor.

Me Saint-Laurent, Bizimungu's main counsel affirmed that there was not an "official connection" between the national direction of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) and the Interahamwe militia, the main machine of the genocide.

"The Interahamwe were directed by an abstract network. They were never integrated within the MRND", to which Bizimungu belonged, argued the Canadian lawyer. "High ranking extremists had a connection with the Interahamwe, but Casimir Bizimungu did not belong to this abstract network", she said.

The indictment alleges that the Interahamwe constituted the youth wing of the MRND, the party of the former President Juvénal Habyarimana.

At the start of his closing arguments on Monday, Paul N'garua, representing the office of the prosecutor, had accused the four former ministers of "not having done anything to stop the massacres".

 "They chose to do nothing. If they had wanted, they would have done something. They did not have any intention of stopping the massacres", had struck the Kenyan magistrate.

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

During the massacres, "armed civilians acted in accordance with the instructions of the four defendants (...) There was an intention to destroy Tutsis for the defence of the fatherland", he pleaded.

The judgement should be rendered next year at a date yet to be determined by the Chamber. In his written arguments, the prosecutor had requested life in prison and the lawyers asked for the acquittal of their clients.

In ending the proceeding, Judge Khan deplored the death, during the trial, of the first president of the Chamber, the Sri Lankan Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana, and of Bicamumpaka's first main counsel, the Canadian Pierre Gaudreau.


© Hirondelle News Agency