A former aide to assassinated ex-Rwandan president, the late Juvenal Habyarimana is back in the dock on charges of planning the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and conspiracy and incitement to commit genocide, after his bid to block the prosecution from appealing his acquittal failed.
Runyinya Barabwiriza, who is accused of committing the offences while he was an advisor to the then Head of State and a senior member of MRND, the then ruling party, returned to the court on Thursday.
The charges stem from Dr Barabwiriza’s alleged proposal, alongside a group of four university lecturers, that the then Minister of Defense establish a civilian “self-defense” programme for all adult men, which according to the prosecution turned them into militias.
“The idea of civilian self-defence conceived by Runyinya was intended to fight the ‘enemy’ inside the country when the army was occupied in defending the frontiers. And the ‘enemy’ inside the country, honourable judges, were all civilian Tutsis,” the prosecutor told the High Court.
The prosecution supports its argument with the interpretation of the word “enemy” by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the famous Paul Akayesu case (also charged with genocide), said the genocide planners had extended the meaning of the word to include all Tutsis who lived in Rwanda who were regarded as RPF collaborators.
Dr Barabwiriza, 67, agreed with the prosecution that the civilian “self-defence” was his brainchild, but denied accusations that it had been designed to be used against civilians.
“The prosecution is using the ICTR definition out of context,” Dr Barabwiriza told the court, saying the fact that the mandate of ICTR covers the period of 1994, its definition of terms should not be extended to define acts and words that were used before. He also argued that the current government has enemies such as FDLR, and that whoever used the word enemy would not be meaning Tutsis.
The prosecution charges that the academician, together with Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who later became the Minister of Family and Feminine in the interim government during the genocide, now in the custody of the Arusha-based ICTR, conspired to exterminate Tutsis, and incited Hutus to do so through rallies and meetings they convened in Butare, in the south of Rwanda in 1992.
But Barabwiriza denied the charge: “The rallies were purely political and should have incited the Hutu population to kill Tutsis in any rally, my name would have been mentioned in Gacaca courts, which didn’t happen,” he said.
Since April 6, 1994 Barabwiriza had been in Dar-es-Salaam where he had travelled as a member of president Habyarimana’s delegation, after the latter was killed in the attack on his plane.
When he presented this alibi before the judge, the prosecution responded that he had planned the genocide before April 6, 1994 and that the massacres after that date were the logical consequence of the preparatory campaign.
On his first appearance before the High Court, Dr Barabwiriza and his defence raised an objection, wanting the prosecution’s appeal to be nullified, arguing that the prosecution had not filed the appeal within the time frame prescribed by Rwandan law.
The plea was, however, quashed, as the prosecutor’s office denied responsibility for the delay, blaming it on the Registry of the High Court.
The appeal hearings were adjourned to early December.