Retired Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian who commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) from October 1993 to August 1994, today began his testimony before Trial Chamber I in the Bagosora et al case, otherwise known as the ‘Military Trial I’. He is the 37th Prosecution witness in the trial which began on 2 April 2002.
UNAMIR’s mandate was to oversee the application of a 1993 peace accord signed by the then government and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
Lt. General Dallaire told the Trial Chamber composed of Judges Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji his personal experience during the genocide in Rwanda. He said that Bagosora was present in all the important government meetings during the time and always spoke on behalf of the government. He added that the accused threatened his life twice for trying to evacuate orphaned children during the genocide.
The accused are Colonel Theoneste Bagosora (61), former Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, Lieutenant – Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva (52), former Commander of Military operations in Gisenyi, Major Aloys Ntabakuze,(48) former Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion in the Rwanda Army and Brigadier – General Gratien Kabiligi (51), former Chief of Military Operations within the High Command of the Rwandan Army.
Bagosora is charged with twelve counts, while Nsengiyumva faces eleven counts, Ntabakuze and Kabiligi are faced with ten counts. They are all charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, crimes against humanity for murder, extermination, rape persecution and other inhumane acts.
This is Lt. General Dallaire’s second appearance before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. In 1998 he gave evidence in the trial of a former mayor, Jean-Paul Akayesu who was later convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Last year he published a book, “Shake Hands with the Devil”, about his experience. The title comes from a discussion Dallaire had with a military chaplain who was surprised that Dallaire should still believe in God after his Rwandan ordeal. Dallaire replied, “I know that God exists because I shook hands with the Devil in Rwanda”.