Slain Rwandan was to testify at genocide court
May 18, 1998
Web posted at: 9:31 a.m. EDT (1331 GMT)
ARUSHA, Tanzania (Reuters) -- A former Rwandan minister murdered in Kenya had agreed to testify in the trial of a compatriot charged by a U.N. court with genocide, a defense lawyer said on Monday.
Defense lawyer Pascal Besnier told the International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that Seth Sendashonga, a former
Rwandan interior minister, had agreed to speak in defense of
his client Obed Ruzindana, the Hirondelle News Agency
Ruzindana and Clement Kayishema were jointly charged with
genocide, inciting genocide and crimes against humanity
during the slaughter of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate
Hutus in Rwanda in 1994. Both have pleaded not guilty.
Sendashonga, a former interior minister, was gunned down Saturday with
his driver in Kenya's capital Nairobi.
A Hutu, Sendashonga joined the rebels of the Tutsi-dominated
Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) in exile in 1992.
With President Pasteur Bizimungu, he was the most powerful
Hutu in the RPF-led government formed in July 1994, after the
genocide, but he was sacked a year later.
He fled to Kenya in 1995 where he led moderate Hutus who
opposed what they saw as increasing oppression of the ethnic
majority by the RPF and mainly Tutsi army.
Hundreds of thousands were killed in the 1994 genocide
Friends of Sendashonga accuse the Kigali government of
ordering his murder. He was shot and injured in an earlier
attempt on his life in Nairobi in 1996, an attack that
sparked the expulsion of Rwanda's diplomats from Kenya.
On Monday Besnier told the court, established to try the
chief suspects of the genocide, that Sendashonga had been
approached eight days ago and had readily agreed to give
evidence as an expert witness, in part because ̉he
was opposed to the manipulation of the true circumstances."
Sendashonga had expressed willingness to testify in an open
court and also to be identified, Besnier said. His only
condition was that he be called as late as possible in the
Besnier said the tribunal had not previously been informed of
Sendashonga's willingness to appear, but on Monday he
introduced a letter formalizing an agreement to testify and
asked the court that statements he had made to defense
lawyers be admitted to the court.
The prosecution did not oppose the motion on condition it
constituted a deposition rather than evidence. It was the
first time either a current or former member of the RPF had
agreed to testify at the ICTR.
The Rwandan government derides the ICTR on the grounds it is
moving at snail's pace and that the maximum sentence the
court can hand down is life imprisonment.
The ICTR currently holds 23 genocide suspects and is yet to
complete its first trial.
Rwanda's jails are bulging with 130,000 genocide suspects
awaiting trial under that country's legal system. More than 300
have already been tried and more than 100 sentenced to death.
The first 22 public executions were carried out on April 22.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.