The trial of four senior Rwandan military officers began today before Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with the Prosecution saying it will bring to light the central and pivotal role the accused played in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The trial began in the absence of the defendants who were not in court because they argued that their rights were being violated. However they asked their attorneys to represent them. The Defence team then unsuccessfully argued for the adjournment of the trial because they said they had not received the trial briefs in time and in both of the Tribunal’s official languages.
Judge Lloyd George Williams (St Kitts and Nevis), presiding, said that the court would not force the accused to attend their trial, however, he ordered the Registry to write them a letter stating that it was in their interest and in the interest of justice to attend the court proceedings. The other members of the bench are Judges Pavel Dolenc (Slovenia) and Andrésia Vaz (Senegal).
In her opening statement, the Prosecutor, Ms Carla Del Ponte, told the court that the accused were responsible for crimes whose gravity and character shocked the conscience of the world. She said that following the establishment by several verdicts of the ICTR that genocide was committed in Rwanda in 1994, the Prosecution would now unravel those who were behind it.
Prosecution Attorney Mr. Chile Eboe-Osuji explained to court the complex network of conspiracy behind the genocide in Rwanda and the important and strategic role the four accused persons allegedly played in it.
The accused on trial are Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, former Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, former Commander of Military operations in Gisenyi sector, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, former Commander of Para-Commando Battalion and Brigadier-General Gratien Kabiligi, former Chief of Military Operations.
They are charged in the joint trial with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity for murder, extermination, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts.
Bagosora is represented by Counsel Raphael Constant of Martinique and France, Nsengiyumva by Kennedy Ogetto of Kenya, Ntabakuze by Clemente Monterosso of Canada and Kabiligi by Jean Degli of Togo and France.