Arusha, 23 November, 2009 (FH) - A Rwandan prisoner last Wednesday claimed that officials from the Rwandan government and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) pressured him in vain to give false evidence.

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Jean Damascene Niyoyita said officials visited him in Ruhengeri prison on May 27, 1997 and tried to extract false testimony against two former Rwandan officials, Juvenal Kajelijeli and Casimir Bizimungu, brought before the ICTR on genocide charges.

"When I refused, they got very angry," the witness told the Chamber, presided by Judge Dennis Byron.

"This practice is still there and if you are not strong enough you will fall into their games," witness Niyoyita further alleged when testifying for his ex-boss, former MRND party Secretary-General Joseph Nzirorera, accused of 1994 genocide and tried in a joint-trial with two other top leaders of the former ruling party of Rwanda.

Kajelijeli was sentenced to imprisonment for the remainder of his life on December 1, 2003 but the Appeals Chamber reduced his sentence to 45 years on May 23, 2005. Bizimungu has wrapped up his case in a joint trial of four other accused persons known as ‘'Government II''. The Tribunal's verdict is pending. 

Niyoyita, who in 1994 was president of the former ruling party MRND in Mukingo commune, Ruhengeri prefecture, is serving life imprisonment in Rwanda after being convicted for illegal possession of a fire-arm and incitement to commit genocide.

This witness did not mention any pressure for false statement against Nzirorera.

He alleged before the court that Rwandan detainees willing to ‘'win some favours from authorities'' were strongly advised to include accusations against former authorities.

According to him, favours detainees could enjoy [if they accused former authorities] included being set free, going out in civilian clothes, receive and meet visitors in private rooms.

The witness denied that authorities in Mukingo commune prepared lists of Tutsis to be slaughtered or that Interahamwe militia carried out killings there in 1994.

He is the second witness in the defence case of Nzirorera to allege that Rwandan authorities and Tribunal officials encouraged detainees to accuse former Rwandan leaders.

November 12, a witness code-named ‘'16'' to protect his identity alleged before the Chamber that a group of 40 detainees in Ruhengeri prison, including him, were advised to accuse the former leaders so that their confession could be accepted.

The witness acknowledged that at Ruhengeri prison he made false accusations against two accused -- Kajelijeli and Nzirorera. He has asked the court to disregard that evidence because it was made under duress.

The witness concluded his evidence on Monday 23.          

Other accused in this trial are MRND ex-president Mathieu Ngirumpatse and former MRND vice-president, Edouard Karemera. Karemera has already completed his defence case.


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