Arusha, 17 August 2009 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will start the hearing of two trials involving the former head of Rwandan Tea Company, Michel Bagaragaza and that of a businessman, Gaspard Kanyarukiga, on 31 August,2009.

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Bagaragaza, who had a close relationship with the former Rwandan President, the later Juvénal Habyarimana, is notably accused of having contributed to create, finance, train and arm the Interahamwe militia, who actively took part in the 1994 genocide which left , according to the U.N report nearly 800 000 people killed, mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus.   

The former economic official was optimistic that he would be tried in Europe.

After having testified against other defendants before ICTR, including Protais Zigiranyirazo, Habyarimana's brother-in-law, Bagaragaza who feared for his safety, had been detained in The Hague, following arrangement made by the office of the prosecutor.

In exchange for this collaboration, the prosecutor had committed to entrust his case to a European country.

But the 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.

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

Informed by this fact, other defendants asked for the disclosure of this document but the prosecutor replied that he could not give them a guilty plea agreement not yet validated by the Tribunal, a reasoning that the judges followed.

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

This divorce was not denied by the prosecutor.

Kanyarukiga will answer, for his part, charges related to massacres committed in his native region of Kibuye (western Region), notably in the parish church of Nyange where thousands of Tutsis were killed and buried by a bulldozer, in April 1994.

The prosecutor alleges that several other figures from Kibuye, including Catholic priest, Fr. Athanase Seromba, who was sentenced to life in prison by ICTR, played part in the Nyange slaughters.

For his part, the former Minister of Youth, Callixte Nzabonimana will appear in court starting on 14 September. He will be followed on 23 September by the former Minister of Planning Augustin Ngirabatware.


© Hirondelle News Agency