29 June 2009 Both the prosecution and defense have wrapped up their cases against four former military officers charged with genocide and other war crimes by the United Nations tribunal set up to deal with the mass killings that engulfed Rwanda in 1994.
April of that year saw the beginning of a slaughter in the tiny East African country in which more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates died, mostly by machete, during a period of less than 100 days.
The four men – General Augustin Bizimungu, former Rwandan Army Chief of Staff; General Augustine Ndindiliyimana, former Chief of Staff of the military police; Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, former Commander in the army; and Innocent Sagahutu, former second-in-command of the Reconnaissance Battalion – are jointly accused of conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide or complicity in genocide; crimes against humanity; and other war crimes.
At the end of the trial last week in Arusha, Tanzania, where the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is based, the prosecution called for the conviction of the accused and sentences of life imprisonment.
The evidence they have presented, they said, prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the four men ordered, encouraged and supported the massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
No date has been set yet for the verdict in the trial, which began in September 2004 and heard the testimonies of over 200 witnesses.
Last week, the ICTR found a former Government minister guilty of genocide, sentencing him to 30 years in prison. On 23 April 2004, Callixte Kalimanzira, former Acting Minister of Interior, lured thousands of Tutsi refugees to Kabuye hill in Butare prefecture, where they were attacked and killed, according to the Tribunal.
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