Arusha, 23 July 2009 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has scheduled for 31 August the opening of the trial of the former head of the tea authority, Michel Bagaragaza, a close relative of the former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

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Bagaragaza is accused of having contributed to create, finance, train and arm the Interahamwe militia, the main armed element of the genocide which resulted, according to the UN, in nearly 800 000 killed, mainly ethnic Tutsis.

If there was a thing which the former economist did not expect, was to be tried by the ICTR.

After having testified against other accused before the United Nations Tribunal, including Protais Zigiranyirazo, Habyarimana's brother-in-law, Bagaragaza, who feared for his safety in Arusha, was transferred to The Hague.

But the ICTR Prosecutor's attempts to have him tried initially in Norway, then in The Netherlands, failed and the defendant was returned against his wishes to Arusha in May 2008.

The two parties then tried to negotiate a guilty plea for the defendant. At the end of the discussions, held in the greatest secrecy, the defendant and the prosecutor would have arrived last year at an agreement.

Made aware of the situation, other defendants asked for the disclosure of this document but the prosecutor replied to them that he could not give them a guilty plea agreement which had not yet been validated by the Tribunal, a reasoning which was followed by the judges.

After this first attempt, the defence of Joseph Nzirorera, the former secretary-general of the MRND, returned to the attack with a new argument: Peter Robinson, Nzirorera's American lawyer, affirmed, in a motion from July 2008, that the negotiations had finally failed and that there was thus no longer any reason to keep the document secret.

This failure was not denied by the prosecutor.


© Hirondelle News Agency