Military joint defence

25 April 2005 by Thierry Cruvellier

When the defence case in the military trial opened on 11 April before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), there was an inevitable feeling of vertigo. "The first word that springs to mind is: Finally! Eleven years after the crimes, nine years after his arrest, eight years and three months after his arrival in Arusha, Colonel Bagosora can finally begin to explain himself. Raphaël Constant, the lawyer for the most famous Rwandan genocide suspect, is one of only two people in the courtroom to have followed the lengthy proceedings against Théoneste Bagosora and his three co-accused from the start.

None of the three judges was sitting when the trial opened three years ago, which is a striking illustration of the way this important trial has slipped into a legal quagmire. Most embarrassing, not least from a legal perspective, the four accused have spent between nine and eleven years behind bars before being effectively tried. As a direct consequence, the men have had time to weigh their options and decide to present a common defence, and to plan the ultimate offensive: staging the trial of their enemy, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

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