The Rwandan former armed forces chief of staff, Augustin Bizimungu, denied on Wednesday genocide charges before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sitting in Arusha, northern Tanzania, Internews reported.
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RWANDA: Bizimungu appears before international criminal tribunal
NAIROBI, 21 August (IRIN) - The Rwandan former armed forces chief of staff, Augustin Bizimungu, denied on Wednesday genocide charges before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sitting in Arusha, northern Tanzania, Internews reported.
"I plead not guilty", he said, to every count read out by Judge Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia.
Bizimungu, 50, faces 10 counts, comprising conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, crimes against humanity for murder, extermination, rape, persecution and other inhumane acts and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions. These are all crimes allegedly committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide against Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.
At Bizimungu's court appearance, the prosecutor, senior trial attorney Cyre Ali Ba of Senegal, said Bizimungu and several other Rwandan army officers had publicly stated prior to the genocide that the extermination of Tutsis would be the inevitable consequence of a resumption of hostilities between government forces and the Rwandan Patriotic Army, or of the implementation of the Arusha peace accords signed in August 1993, Internews reported.
Bizimungu was arrested in the eastern Angolan city of Luena by local authorities acting on a warrant issued by the tribunal. The Angolan authorities said he had been fighting on the side of the Angolan rebel group, UNITA, which signed a peace accord with Luanda after the death early this year of the group's leader, Jonas Savimbi.
Angola said Bizimungu had been identified during the demobilisation of the UNITA forces. His was the first arrest in Angola on the tribunal's behalf. He was one of 68 Rwandan soldiers Angola said had been fighting for UNITA.
"He is one of the most senior former military commanders apprehended by the tribunal to date," the UN court reported.
Bizimungu is indicted along with Augustin Ndindiliyimana, former chief of staff of the Gendarmerie Nationale; Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, former Reconnaissance Battalion commander; his adjutant, Innocent Sagahutu; and Protais Mpiranya, former commander of the presidential guard. All these former military officers, with the exception of Mpiranya, are in the tribunal's custody.
They are charged on 12 counts, of which 10 concern Bizimungu. Counsel Bharat Chadha of Tanzania represents him.
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