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Former Army Chief f Staff pleads not guilty

General Augustin Bizimungu, former Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army, today pleaded not guilty to ten counts of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. He entered his plea before Judge Pavel Dolenc.

Bizimungu is jointly indicted with four other accused, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, former Chief of Staff of the Gendarmerie Nationale, Major Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, Commander of the Reconnaissance Batallion, Captain Innocent Sagahutu second in command of the Reconnaissance Batallion (who are already in the Tribunal's custody), and Major Protais Mpiranya, Commander of the Presidential Guard. He was assisted by a duty Counsel until he engages his own Counsel or is assigned Counsel by the Registrar. No date yet has been fixed for the Trial on the merits.

Following the plane crash on 6 April 1994 in which the President of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and the then Army Chief of Staff, Colonel Déogratias Nsabimana, were killed, Bizimungu was promoted to the rank of General and appointed Chief of Staff.

He is one of the most senior former Rwandan military commanders apprehended by the Tribunal to date. Bizimungu is also first to be detained of nine principal genocide suspects named by the Government of the United States in its “Rewards for Justice” programme, which is supporting the Tribunal's efforts to apprehend high-ranking fugitives from justice.

The arrest was effected by the Angolan authorities at Luena, in eastern Angola, on 2 August 2002, acting on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by ICTR on 12 April 2002. According to the Angolan authorities Bizimungu had been fighting for the Angolan rebel movement, UNITA, and was identified during the process of demobilization of UNITA forces in the context of the Angola peace settlement. This was the first arrest on behalf of the ICTR to be carried out in Angola.

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