Kamuhanda case: key witness retracts

13 June 2005 by our correspondent

When ICTR judges handed down a life sentence to the former Minister of Higher Education, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, they based their decision in the main on the testimony of three witnesses. All claimed that they had seen Kamuhanda on 12 April 1994 in the protestant parish of Gikomero, thirty kilometres from Kigali. The judgement states that Kamuhanda had given the signal to start massacring the Tutsis in Gikomero. On appeal, one witness retracted his testimony.

The declaration came right at the start of the 18 May hearing, when the witness known only as GAA, whose family had been decimated in the Gikomero massacres, announced that he had committed perjury against the ex-minister. "Why did you lie in court?" asked Aïcha Condé, the counsel for Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda. "Someone came to my home to tell me that a woman wanted to speak to me. I went to see her. She told me that the person responsible for the killings in Gikomero was now known and that we should testify against him," said the witness. Driven by revenge, GAA had agreed to his neighbour's proposal, without questioning it. The neighbour had also asked him to persuade other survivors to testify against the former dignitary. "Some accepted, others refused, saying that they had not seen Kamuhanda at the scene of the crime", he said. GAA told the court that he had not seen the accused in the parish because he had been hiding on the other side of Lake Muhazi at the time. "In spite of this, I came to testify against him. I ask Mr Kamuhanda and the court to forgive me."

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