The first to speak, at this ultimate phase of a trial which began in September 2004, Yves Saint-Laurent, the lead counsel of General Augustin Bizimungu, the former Chief of Staff of Army, asked for an outright acquittal on each and every count of the indictment brought against the suspect.
The Canadian lawyer stated that when General Bizimungu was appointed to the head the army on 16 April 1994, the massacres were almost finished in several areas of Rwanda, especially Kigali. The prosecutor had argued yesterday that slaughters had doubled shortly after the promotion of the defendant. "There is no evidence of that", reacted Saint-Laurent.
Bizimungu had to face war and chaos. What could he have done other than what he did?" the counsel queried.
The lawyer then presented a series of denials: his client did not have authority on the Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which explicitly called for the massacres, he did not maintain relations with the Interahamwe militiamen, he never distributed weapons to the civil population, and so forth.
He finally stated that a good number of the prosecution witnesses who came to charge the general were, at the time of their testimony, prosecuted for their role in the genocide. They had "every reason to lie" in order to find grace in the eyes of the Rwandan authorities, added Saint-Laurent.
The floor was then given to Christopher Black, who defends General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former Chief of Staff of Gendarmerie. "If General Ndindiliyimana is convicted, there will never be reconciliation in Rwanda", claimed Black.
The lawyer affirmed that at the time of the facts the main part of the elements of the gendarmerie had gone to reinforce the army on the front to try to contain the rebels. The Canadian counsel stressed that in spite of this situation, his client had intervened personally to save human lives.
The Chamber then heard the lawyers for Major François Xavier Nzuwonemye, who commanded the reconnaissance battalion and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who was at the head of a squadron of the unit.
He denied that the reconnaissance battalion was involved in the assassinations of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and murders of ten Belgian peacekeepers on 7 April 1994.
On Friday, the defendants will be able, if they wish, to address the judges.
© Hirondelle News Agency