Arusha, May 12, 2010 (FH) - Former Rwandan Minister of Youth Callixte Nzabonimana has obtained from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where he stands trial, that three diplomatic dispatches issued by the French embassy in Kigali during the genocide be accepted as exculpatory evidence.

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According to these dispatches, the defendant "would have been inside the French embassy in Kigali from April 7 to April 12 1994", while the Prosecution alleges he was, during that period, busy organizing the killings of Tutsis in his native commune of Nyabikenke (Central Rwanda).

In the aftermath of Juvénal Habyarimana's assassination on April 6, 1994, numerous government officials sought refuge at the French embassy.

According to the Canadian defence co-counsel Philippe Larochelle, it is not sufficient that France finally provided these diplomatic dispatches. He blames the French authorities for having been dragging their feet for already more than a year and a half, in effect preventing him from meeting with former employees at the French embassy in Kigali, namely security guards, who could be witnesses for the defence.

He asserts their testimony would allow him to prove that Nzabonimana had no time to go to Nyabikenke and come back during his rare and short exits from the embassy between April 7 and 12.

Philippe Larochelle contends that, if France were to fully cooperate, the defence team could disprove "50 to 70%" of the accusations leveled against his client.

The former minister is facing five charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder. The Prosecution presents him as the main instigator of the killings in his home prefecture of Gitarama.

Callixte Nzabonimana pleads not guilty.


© Hirondelle News Agency