09.02.05 - ICTR/NETHERLANDS/MILITARY I - TRIBUNAL REQUESTS DUTCH COOPERATION WITH BAGOSORA’S DEFENCE

Arusha, February 8th, 2005 (FH ) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has requested that the government of the Netherlands cooperate with Colonel Theoneste Bagosora’s defence team.

Bagosora is considered by the Prosecutor of the ICTR as having been the “mastermind” of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

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According to the decision, the chamber requested the “the Kingdom of the Netherlands to grant permission for Major van Putten to be interviewed by the Bagosora Defence”.

The Dutch officer, who could possibly be called as a witness, was a member of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) which was present during the 1994 genocide. An estimated one million people were killed at the time.

The court directed the Registrar to transmit its decision to concerned authorities “with a view to calling him as a witness and to provide any relevant assistance that may be reasonably required to facilitate this meeting”.

The tribunal explained in its decision that prior attempts by the defence to seek the Netherlands’ cooperation had not been successful, although the Dutch ministry of defence had promised to cooperate if requested to officially by the tribunal.

Raphael Constant, Bagosora’s lead counsel will begin calling his witnesses from March 31. He is currently travelling all over the world interviewing potential witnesses, including another former UNAMIR officer, General Clayton Yaache from Ghana.

Yaache is currently Ghana’s army chief-of-staff and used to be in charge of UNAMIR’S humanitarian section.

Constant would also like to meet with two former Ambassadors to Rwanda: Jean-Michel Marlaud of France and Belgium’s Johan Swinnen.

The ICTR had requested that the French and Belgian governments facilitate Bagosora’s defence team interview with the two men.

According to well-informed sources, a meeting between Constant and the retired French envoy took place mid January this year.

Constant had complained at the beginning of the year of the “lack of cooperation” on the part of Belgium for failing to facilitate a meeting with Swinnen, who is currently posted to Kinshasa (DRC).

“Belgium is in the process of examining the request”, said Roland Amoussouga, spokesman of the tribunal. “We are expecting a satisfactory reply soon”.

According to Belgian diplomatic sources, when Bagosora’s defence complained of lack of cooperation, they had not made their requests through the right channels.

An accord signed between the Tribunal and Belgium stipulates that all requests should pass through the former and should be in writing, something that the defence failed to do.

Colonel Bagosora is jointly on trial with three other former Rwandan army officers. All have pleaded not guilty to crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

KN/ER/PB/GF/FH (ML I’’’0208e)