Saturday, June 02, 2007

"Military I," Five Years Later

The trial of Théoneste Bagosora and three co-defendants on charges of plotting the genocide that decimated Rwanda in 1994 has concluded in Arusha, Tanzania.

Considered "the most important genocide trial" since the adoption of the Genocide Convention in 1948 and designated "Military I" by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the trial spanned 408 trial days over the course of five years and involved 242 witnesses, 1, 584 exhibits, and over 300 written decisions from the bench.

Bagosora, who held a cabinet position in the Rwandan defense ministry at the time of the genocide, took over the armed forces on April 6, 1994, when President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down. The following morning, Bagosora allegedly ordered existing plans for the genocide to be carried out.

According to the Guardian, Bagosora never presented himself before the tribunal as a very sympathetic character: "Asked to illustrate how a subordinate would carry out an order, he gave the example of assigning someone to kill a member of the courtroom. Asked about a report that he had appeared at roadblocks alongside the death squads, he said it was an insult to a man of his rank."

Verdicts in the "Military I" case and in a number of other recently completed cases are expected later this year.

For more on the trial, see the Guardian story here and the ICTR website here.