Arusha, March 25, 2010 (FH) - Paris has denied an allegation before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR ) that a contingent of 60 French soldiers was stationed at Mount Ndiza, central Rwanda, between April and July 1994.

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In a written request dated February 15, lawyers for former Minister of Youth Callixte Nzabonimana had asked the court to issue a ruling  for French authorities to confirm or deny the the allegation made by a prosecution witness on December 1 and 2, 2009.

The witness, dubbed CNAL to protect his identity, said he was the French soldiers' cook at the time of the genocide.

Nzabonimana's lawyers had requested that if France were to confirm its troop presence it should also give the names of the soldiers , the units to which they belonged and the exact dates they were present. The lawyers said they had tried in vain to get the French authorities to confirm or deny the allegation.

The judges have not yet ruled on the request, but in the meantime, the ICTR Registrar has received an official note from the French Embassy in Tanzania denying CNAL's allegations, Hirondelle News Agency learned on Thursday.

"The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces and the Directorate of Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Defense have found no documents attesting to the presence of French troops at Mount Ndiza during the period in question," reads the memo quoted by the court in a ruling dated March 19. The judges found that it is  thus no longer necessary for them to rule on the defence request.

The French response boosts the attempts of Nzabonimana's lawyers to prove that CNAL is not a credible witness.

The former minister is facing five charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder. He pleads not guilty.

 According to the indictment, the accused played an important role in the massacres of Tutsis in his hometown of Gitarama (central Rwanda).


© Hirondelle News Agency