Arusha, February 18, 2010 (FH) - The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1994, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh, labeled the interim government formed after the death of President Habyarimana as "illegal", when he testified on Thursday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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However, Mr. Booh-Booh did not follow the Prosecution in its claim that the interim government ought to be qualified as "criminal".

Now a retired diplomat, Mr. Booh-Booh, a Cameroonian, was called to the witness stand by the defence of Joseph Nzirorera, who was in 1994 the Secretary General of the then ruling party MRND.

"In my opinion, it was an illegal government (...) I kept my distance from a government which, given my background as a jurist, I thought of as being illegal", he said to the court.

When Prosecution counsel Don Webster supported that the interim government was actually a gang of criminals, the former head of UNAMIR replied: "I don't know of a criminal government".

Nevertheless, he made clear that UNAMIR did not accept the explanations given by the interim government for the massacres which were committed. In their messages, Mr. Booh-Booh said, the interim government referred to the organized killings as "interethnic trouble".

"The UNAMIR did condemn [these explanations]. But don't ask me to borrow your language (...) The language of a prosecutor and the language of a diplomat are not the same", he explained.

Don Webster insisted asking Mr. Booh-Booh if the RPF, then a rebel movement, was not right to refuse negotiations with a criminal government.

"I can't judge the position of a political party to which I do not belong", Booh-Booh responded.

During the three days of his testimony as a defence witness, the Cameroonian diplomat likewise stated points of disagreement with Nziroera's Lead defence counsel  Peter Robinson.

Nzirorera is on trial with Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera, respectively the President and Vice-President of the MRND in 1994. The three men are charged for their "superior responsibility" in the crimes committed by their subordinates. They plead not guilty.


© Hirondelle News Agency