24.06.09 - ICTR/MILITARY II - PROSECUTION WANTS LIFE JAIL FOR EX-HEADS OF RWANDA ARMY, GENDARMERIE

Arusha, 24 June 2009 (FH) - Life imprisonment was requested on Wednesday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) against four officers, including the former chiefs of staff of the Rwandan army and gendarmerie, generals Augustin Ndindiliyimana and Augustin Bizimungu, respectively, reports Hirondelle Agency.
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The others defendants are the former commander of the reconnaissance battalion, Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who commanded a squadron of this elite unit.

"For their historical and indelible failing, justice will be rendered if you sentence each one of them to life in prison. These are the last words of the prosecutor", stated Alphonse Van, who led the prosecution team in the case.

"In Rwanda, in 1994, the armed forces failed to fulfill their duty, they turned against the people, while turning their back on the adversary, this is why they were defeated", stated Van.

"We will never know how many victims there were (...) what is sure it that a genocide took place quite simply because the Rwandan armed forces wanted it so", added the Ivorian attorney.

"Ndindiliyimana's wife and children live in Europe but those of other Rwandans were killed and will not be seen again. Bizimungu's wife and children reside over there, somewhere, but those of other Rwandans died. This is unjust", stated the representative of the prosecutor.

General Ndindiliyimana was named chief of the staff of the gendarmerie in 1992, while Bizimungu became the head of the army on 16 April 1994, at the height of the genocide.

The prosecutor reproached to Ndindiliyimana for having left the gendarmerie, a "symbol of security", to take part in the genocide.

The prosecutor affirmed that Bizimungu killed Tutsis even before his appointment to head the army. The reason for which, alleged Van, the massacres doubled in intensity in certain prefectures after the promotion of the officer.

Speaking of the role of Nzuwonemeye and Sagahutu, Van accused them of having played a part in the assassination of the Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and the murder of the 10 Belgian peacekeepers on 7 April 1994.

On Thursday and Friday, it will be the defence teams which will follow one another for their final arguments. The judgment is expected next year.

This lawsuit, which is among the most important in the history of the ICTR, opened in September 2004.

ER/MM/SC/GF

© Hirondelle News Agency