Arusha, March 21, 2011 (FH) - Chief investigator in the case of former Rwandan Minister of Youth Callixte Nzabonimana, Fernand Batard, Monday alleged before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that he could not easily get ordinary Rwandans neither in the country nor abroad to testify for the defendant for fear of reprisal by the authorities.

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The accused is facing five charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder. He has denied the charges.

‘'I did not meet a single potential witness who did not express fear to testify for the genocide accused persons,''Batard, a  retired French Lieutenant Colonel and lawyer told the Chamber during examination in-chief conducted by lead defence Counsel, Vincent Courcelle-Labrouse.

He said a three-man team of investigators under his control including himself and two Rwandan nationals could easily get cooperation with the would be defence witnesses from prisons but not from ordinary citizens whom were engulfed with fears.

‘'I met with one of the would be witnesses outside Gitarama town trying to persuade him testify for Nzabonimana but in less than 15 minutes, district authorities came to find out what was happening in the area,'' he narrated adding that the potential witness, code-named T22 later refused to testify for the accused for fear of reprisal.

The witness who also worked in Rwanda between 1986 and 1989 at a Training College of Gendarmerie National as an Instructor and Technical Advisor, explained that he faced same problems when recruiting witnesses from Rwandans living in Diaspora in Europe saying ‘'they feared their own Rwandan authorities and the authorities of the host countries for reprisal.''

‘'This deprived us and you, your honors, of information we needed to provide for the defence of our client,'' he said, insisting that even people who worked with Nzabonimana before, including the clergymen refused to cooperate with the defence team.   

Lt.Col. Fernand later asked for close session when he wanted to give more examples of witnesses who allegedly refused to testify for Nzabonimana.

The 35 defence witness continues with his testimony Tuesday.

The prosecution among others alleged that the accused played an important role in the massacres of Tutsis in his native prefecture of Gitarama, central Rwanda. He was allegedly an active member of the then ruling party, MRND, at his prefecture and the national level.   


© Hirondelle News Agency