Arusha, March 26, 2010 (FH) - In his Appeal statement filed on Wednesday, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, the head of the departmental staff - directeur de cabinet - at the Rwandan ministry of Defence in 1994, claims that he was deprived in his first trial of a fundamental testimony, that  of General Marcel Gatsinzi, Rwanda's current Minister of Defence.

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General Bagosora was handed down a life jail sentence on December 18, 2008, for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Presented by the Prosecution as the "mastermind" of the Rwandan genocide, he was however acquitted of the charge of conspiracy to commit genocide.

The Lower Court found him guilty of the killings of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and of the 10 Belgian peacekeepers in charge of her security, as well as of crimes committed at several roadblocks in the Kigali area and in his hometown of Gisenyi between April 6 and 9, 1994.

According to the judgment, regardless of whether he held legal authority over the Army, Bagosora was de facto the highest authority in the Ministry of Defence and exercised effective control over the Rwandan army and the gendarmerie from April 6 until April 9, when the Minister of Defence returned to Rwanda.

The defendant has always objected that on April 7, 1994, the control of the Army was placed into the hands of General Marcel Gatsinzi, when he was appointed interim Chief of Staff in replacement of General Deogratias Nsabimana, who had been killed aboard President Habyarimana's plane on April 6.

The Lower Court had called General Gatsinzi to the stand on September 11, 2006. However, the Minister would only testify on two conditions: first,  that he would be a court witness rather than a witness of the Defence and, secondly, that he would be heard via videoconference.

No follow up was given to his requests.

"In fact, the Chamber gave in on his refusal to testify", Bagosora's lawyers write in the Appeal notice. "in line with its statutory mandate, the ICTR should have requested the Rwandan authorities to cooperate and should have compelled Bagosora to give evidence".

In total, the 65 pages Defence memorandum contains six grounds for appeal and concludes on a request urging the judges to either "reverse the sentence and acquit the defendant" or "to order a new trial".

On December 18, 2008, when he announced the verdict against Theoneste Bagosora, Judge Mose had read out an English summary. The defendant had immediately objected that he didn't understand English. He requested the full Trial Judgment in French before filing his notice of appeal. The Judgment, a text of 1,004 pages, was only made available to the parties on December 10, 2009.

Known as  "Military I" case, the Lower Court trial involved four senior officers of the Rwandan army in 1994: Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, General Gratien Kabiligi, the head of the military operations bureau of the army general staff, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, the commander of the Para Commando Battalion, and Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, the commander of the Operational Sector of Gisenyi.

Théoneste Bagosora, Aloys Ntabakuze and Anatole Nsengiyumva were sentenced to life in jail. Gratien Kabiligi was acquitted of all charges and, as the Prosecution did not appeal, released.


© Hirondelle News Agency