Arusha, December 12, 2011(FH) - The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Wednesday will hand down its judgment in the case of two former Rwandan senior military officials, including the alleged mastermind of the 1994 genocide, Colonel Théoneste Bagosora.

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The other official is Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. Bagosora, former Director of Cabinet in the Defence Ministry and Nsengiyumva, who was in charge of military operations in Gisenyi, are appealing against life imprisonment sentences imposed on them on December 18, 2008.

They were convicted of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. A Trial Chamber found Col. Bagosora with command responsibility over the army between April 6 and 9, 1994 and was responsible for the killings of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana and 10 Belgian peacekeepers in charge of her security.

During hearing of his appeal on April 1, 2011, Bagosora refuted such finding, alleging that during the period in question, the army had its chief, who was General Marcel Gatsinzi at the time. He said that the post of Director of Cabinet he held was political and he could not assume ministerial responsibilities.

‘'I admit that between April 7 and 9, 1994, I replaced the Minister of Defence but with limited powers. In my capacity as Director of Cabinet, I could not act as the minister because I did not have all the ministerial powers,'' he told the Appeals Chamber.

However, General Gatsinzi, who was summoned by the Chamber to testify as its own witness during the same hearing, said that all members of the army were answerable to the Minister of Defence whose duties were replaced by Bagosora as the Director of Cabinet on his absence.

"Bagosora was in the high rank. He was obeyed as he represented the Minister of Defence, who was not present at the time," said Gatsinzi, who was appointed army chief of staff on the night of April 6, 1994. He is currently Minister for Natural Disaster and Refugee Affairs in Rwanda.

He added, "Col. Bagosora circumvented me. He communicated directly with commanders of the Para-battalion and presidential guard. There was a parallel network within the ministry coordinated by Bagosora."

Addressing the Chamber on the same matter, the prosecution alleged that the evidence produced during the trial "overwhelmingly "showed that Bagosora, as Director of Cabinet of the Ministry of Defence, assumed the highest authority of the army in absence of the Minister.

The defence, however, submitted to the contrary, alleging that the testimony by Gatsinzi was hearsay and there was no evidence leading to the conclusion that Bagosora had effective control of the army.

Nsengiyumva was found responsible for massacres committed at Mudende University, Nyundo parish, as well as the targeted killings of civilians in the area under his command. He was also found guilty of sending militiamen to the Bisesero area of Kibuye prefecture to kill Tutsi refugees in June 1994.

The two were originally jointly tried with two other military officers, Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi and Major Aloys Ntabakuze, ex-Commander of Para-Commando Battalion, in the so-called "Military I case".

Ntabakuze was also convicted of same offences and sentenced to life imprisonment by the lower court, while Kabiligi was acquitted. However, Ntabakuze's appeals case was separated from the others after his lead counsel, American lawyer Peter Erlinder, failed to show up on March 30, 2011 for the appeal hearing. Ntabakuze's appeal was heard on September 27, 2011. The Appeals Chamber is still drafting the judgment.     


© Hirondelle News Agency