Arusha, 27, 2010 (FH) - Resumption of two trials of former top Rwandan officials and visit by United States Ambassador at Large for War Crime Issues, Stephen Rapp, were only events which featured before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) this week.

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President of then Rwandan ruling party, MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, started presenting his defence case on Tuesday and called two witnesses. The first witness testified that he never heard the defendant delivering speeches with ethnicity and extremist elements prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.                                        

The second witness, who testified on Thursday, did not complete his evidence in chief. He is due to proceed Monday.

Before calling the witnesses, Ngirumpatse's co-counsel Frederic Weyl, made an  opening statement and sought acquittal of his client, alleging the prosecution's case had several shortcomings. He alleged that Ngirumpatse was innocent and made many sacrifices to serve the people in Rwanda.

Prior to the session, the Tribunal warned both Weyl and lead counsel, Chantal Hounkpatin, for refusing to make the opening statement having being dissatisfied by decision directing the prosecution to amend the indictment following the death of their co-accused, Joseph Nzirorera, then MRND Secretary General.

Ngirumpatse is charged with his party's Vice-President Edouard Karemera mostly for crimes committed by members of their party. The prosecution has indicted them for their superior responsibility as top officials of the party.  Karemera has already completed his defence case.

In the trial of another former Rwandan official, Augustin Ngirabatware, then Minister of Planning, the prosecution called two out of three witnesses it had added to reinforce its case. The last and 20th witness will testify on Monday through Video-link from Kigali.

Ngirabatware, who hails from what used to be the Nyamyumba commune, Gisenyi prefecture (North of Rwanda) allegedly "forwarded to MRND public funds from his ministry to purchase weapons for the party's youth wing, Interahamwe militiamen".

He is the son-in-law of a wealthy businessman on the run, Felicien Kabuga, the alleged sponsor of the 1994 genocide.

The United States Ambassador at Large for War Crime Issues, Stephen Rapp, visited the Tribunal and called Kenya to cooperate with ICTR in arrest of Kabuga, the most wanted genocide suspect. According to him, there were reports in 2010 saying that Kabuga was still in Kenya.


© Hirondelle News Agency