The Prosecution and the Defence, on 28 and 29 May 2008 presented their closing arguments in the case of Protais Zigiranyirazo, a former member of the Akazu, the inner circle of the late President of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana. The Prosecution called for the Trial Chamber III to convict the accused and sentence him to prison for the remainder of his life while the Defence prayed for his acquittal.
The Prosecution told the Trial Chamber composed of judges Inés Mónica Weinberg de Roca (Argentina), presiding, Khalida Rachid Khan (Pakistan) and Lee Gacuiga Muthoga (Kenya), that evidence produced before the Chamber proved that the accused used his great power and influence, having been a Prefect and Member of Parliament for 17 and 3 years respectively, to plan, order and instigate genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Particularly, it stated that evidence presented showed that Zigiranyirazo had organized and participated in massacres of Tutsis in different areas of Gisenyi prefecture. It added that the accused also allegedly took part in drawing up a list of Tutsi and Hutu opponents to be eliminated following the death of President Habyarimana, who was his brother in law.
The Defence Counsel Mr. John Philpot, from Canada argued that the Prosecution had failed to prove its case and that the accused was never in any conspiracy. Actually, he added, evidence presented proves that the accused and his family were hiding when the massacres took place in Gisenyi.
Addressing the Court, Zigiranyirazo attributed the 1994 problems in Rwanda to historical factors and the killing of President Habyarimana. Zigiranyirazo is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, (or in the alternative) complicity in genocide, extermination and murder as crimes against humanity.
The accused was arrested in Brussels, on 26 July 2001 and transferred to the UN Detention Facility in Arusha, Tanzania on 3 October 2001. He made his initial appearance at the Tribunal on 10 October 2001 pleading not guilty to all charges against him. His trial began on 3 October 2005.