Arusha, October 18, 2011 (FH) - Prosecution and defence in the genocide trial of former Rwandan minister Callixte Nzabonimana will make their closing arguments Thursday and Friday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  Nzabonimana was Youth Minister in the interim government in place during the 1994 genocide and has been on trial since November 2009.

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The defendant is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder. The prosecution presents him as the main instigator of massacres of Tutsis in his native prefecture Gitarama (central Rwanda) in 1994. Nzabonimana has always denied this, and is pleading not-guilty.

The indictment alleges that before the genocide Nzabonimana actively participated in recruiting, indoctrinating, training and arming Interahamwe extremist Hutu militia, especially in the Gitarama prefecture. After the massacres started, he allegedly ordered the erection in the prefecture of various roadblocks which he visited and supervised, distributing arms, money, beer and food to the killers who were manning them.  

According to the prosecution, Nzabonimana had influence not only over the civilians who manned the roadblocks but also soldiers, gendarmes and local officials in the prefecture, including the prefect and mayors. He allegedly abused this influence to call for  massacres of Tutsis during numerous public meetings in Gitarama prefecture in 1994.

It is alleged that during a meeting in Murambi on April 18, 1994, attended also by other members of the interim government, Nzabonimana ordered the killing of mayors and other officials who had opposed the massacres. Immediately afterwards, according to the prosecution, the mayor of Mugina, Callixte Ndagijimana, and other local officials were killed.

The former minister has sought to demonstrate that he did not have the influence in the region that the prosecutor alleges. He stresses he was a member of the former presidential party MRND whereas after the 1991 advent of multiparty politics in Rwanda, Gitarama was a stronghold of the main opposition party MDR.

Nzabonimana has also presented a defence of alibi for April 8 and 9, 1994, when the prosecution alleges he was in his native Nyabikenke commune organising massacres of Tutsis. Nzabonimana says he was at the French embassy in Kigali, and has cited official French documents to support his case. The prosecution retorts that Nzabonimana could have gone to Nyabikenke, conducted meetings and returned to Kigali. The defence says this would have been impossible given the resumption of fighting and the proliferation of roadblocks in and around the capital at the time.

The ex-minister was arrested in Tanzania on February 18, 2008, and his trial started on November 9, 2009.  The court trying him is composed of presiding judge Solomy Balungi Bossa of Uganda, Judge Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov of Russia and Judge Mparany Rajohnson of Madagascar.


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