Arusha, 16 December 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (TPIR) will render on Thursday an historic and greatest trial against four former Rwandan senior military officers, including the alleged "mastermind" of the Rwandan 1994 genocide, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora.

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The "colonel of the apocalypse" was the cabinet director in the ministry of defence during the genocide.

Other accused are Lieutenant Colonel, Anatole Nsengiyumva,former commander of the military sector of Gisenyi, northern Rwanda, Major Aloys Ntabakuze who commanded the Para commando battalion and Brigadier General, Gratien Kabiligi, former chief of military operations at the general staff headquarters.

Accused of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the four senior officers pleaded not guilty.

During the closing argument on May 28, 2007, the prosecutor of the ICTR, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, requested life imprisonment for each defendant.

"They prepared, planned, ordered, directed, incited, encouraged and approved the murder of innocent Tutsi civilians, men, women, children and others considered to be accomplices", Jallow alleged.

"Nobody contributed more than the four defendants to the success of this terrible campaign," insisted the prosecutor.

According to him, within the framework of a conspiracy in order to commit genocide, the four defendants ordered soldiers and militiamen to kill Tutsis and to rape their daughters or wives.

On Bagosora in particularly the prosecutor accused him of having refused to associate the former Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, "the legitimate and constitutional authority", to the management of the crisis of the assassination former Rwandan President, the late Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. Mrs. Uwilingimana was assassinated by elements of the Rwandan governmental army on April 7, 1994.

For Jallow, Bagosora is also responsible for the murder of the ten Belgian peacekeepers, with the aim, according to him, of causing the withdrawal of the United Nations Peace-keeping Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) so as to leave the field open for the killing machine.

Addressing the judges on June 1, 2007, at the end of the trial, Colonel Bagosora said that he was the victim of propaganda of the current Rwandan regime. "I did not kill anybody, nor did I give any order to kill anyone (...) only you can rehabilitate me in the society", protested Bagosora.

Bagosora and Nsengiyumva were arrested in Cameroun in March 1996 and were transferred to the ICTR on January 23, 1997. They were joined on July 18, 1997 by Kabiligi and Ntabakuze who had just been arrested the same day in Kenya.

After many dilemmas on the interests and the disadvantages of a group trial, the trial opened on April 2, 2002, in the absence of the defendants. The opening statement of the prosecutor Carla Del Ponte was the single act of inaugural hearing which had, however, attracted the media of the entire world.

The Swiss magistrate had promised the Chamber which was then presided over by Judge George Williams, a native of Saint-Kitts-and-Nevis, to bring the evidence of "a plan and organization" among the defendants in order to commit the genocide.

Since then, the trial has known many bounces.

In May 2003, Judge Williams, who was in permanent conflict with the defence teams and who often deplored, to the court, the slowness of the proceedings, withdrew himself from the case, officially for "personal reasons".

The trial was then presided over by Norwegian Judge Erik Mose who arrived, not only, to bring a new rhythm to the trial but also to make serenity reign in the courtroom.

Several times obligated to reduce his list of witnesses, the prosecutor rested his case on October 14, 2004 after having called 82 witnesses to the stand.

The defence opened its case on April 11, 2005 and rested it in January 2007, after calling in 160 defence witnesses.

The proceedings were spread out over 408 days of hearings during which 1, 554 elements of evidences were filed.


© Hirondelle News Agency