Arusha, September 27, 2011 (FH) - Defence of ex-Rwandan military officer, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, Tuesday asked the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to enter a judgment of acquittal and order the immediate release of its client for lack of "strong evidence."

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The defendant's Lead Counsel, Andre Tremblay, submitted that "evidence produced by prosecution was so week to ground conviction and the appellant lacked sufficient notice on commission of crimes for which he was convicted of."

"The appellant has been convicted of crimes for which he was not prosecuted. Your Chamber should consider the defect significant," he further told the Chamber presided by Judge Theodor Meron.

However, the prosecution said that "none of grounds of appeal advanced by Ntabakuze demonstrate errors of law and facts, justifying the intervention of the Chamber."

Ntabakuze, ex-Commander of Para-Commando Battalion, was convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for the participation of soldiers under his command in killings at Kabeza, Nyanza Hill and L'institut Africain et Mauricien de Statistiques et d"Economie Appliquée (IAMSEA) in Kigali. He was handed down a life-term sentence in first instance.

Ntabakuze briefly pleaded with the court, hoping that "a render of justice will restore my rights. I never had any knowledge in 1994 of the involvement of my subordinates in crimes."

Prosecuting attorney George Mugwanya, however, alleged that Ntabakuze was convicted on bases of allegations as contained in the indictment. "The indictment as reinforced by further communications provided the appellant with adequate notice and material facts that enabled him to prepare his defence," he said.

"There was information clearly and timely provided on involvement of Para-Commando soldiers in crimes throughout Kigali," he said, adding," Ntabakuze suffered no prejudice because through out the trial he prepared and mounted his defence. He cross-examined witnesses, who testified in relation to the three crime scenes."

Ntabakuze was charged in a joint trial known as Military I alongside two other officers, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora and Lieutenant Colonel Aloys Nsengiyumva. They were all convicted of the offences on December 18, 2008 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

The trio lodged notices of appeal to challenge the verdict. The appeals for Bagosora and Nsengiyumva were heard on March 30, 2011, but that of Ntabakuze was postponed on that day because his former lead counsel, American lawyer, Peter Erlinder, failed to show up.


© Hirondelle News Agency