Arusha, August 24, 2011 (FH) - A Defence counsel for Matthieu Ngirumpatse, the former President of the Rwandan ruling party in 1994 (MRND), Wednesday requested the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to enter a verdict of not guilty on genocide charges brought against the accused.

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"In our opinion, acquittal is unavoidable in light of the evidence, the interest of a humane treatment for Ngirumpatse and in the interest of Rwanda's reconciliation process," co-counsel for the defendant, Frederic Weyl, told a Trial Chamber presided over by Judge Dennis Byron, when presenting his closing arguments.

He added: "The Tribunal will honour itself by the acquittal of an innocent person. The Prosecution failed its obligation to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt."

The counsel further urged the Chamber "not to attach any credit to all Prosecution witnesses." Weyl claimed that whenever the Prosecution called upon more than one witness, inconsistencies appeared. According to him, witnesses changed their statement as they testified before different chambers or during cross-examination.

 "Where two witnesses testified on one issue, they contradict each other. Whose version should be taken? The only solution is to reject both," he argued.

The Counsel concluded that the fate of the case and of the accused would depend on the judges' wisdom. "We asked in our open statement for you to take the path of wisdom. We are now at a crossroad," he said.

Lead Counsel for the defendant, Chantal Hounkpatin, also pleaded for an acquittal. She described Ngirumpatse as a man of goodwill and a lawyer, who was committed to the democratization of his country.

Ngirumpatse is charged alongside the former MRND's Vice-President Edouard Karemera with genocide, complicity in genocide, incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity committed by members of their party and, in particular, the MRND's youth wing, the Interahamwe.

Chantal Hounkpatin argued that her client had no authority over the Interahamwe militias. "Prosecution witnesses came here and said the accused did not have control of Interahamwe. The Interahamwe  had their own bodies, their own president and executive committee," she said.

The session is due to continue on Thursday when the accused will take the floor. Ngirumpatse was born in 1939 in Ntare commune, Kigali rural prefecture. He was arrested on June 11, 1998 in Mali and transferred to Arusha United Nations Detention Facility a month later.


© Hirondelle News Agency