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UN War Crime Court Resumes Historic Trial - 2004-09-06

The trial of four senior Rwandan military officers considered key players in the 1994 genocide has resumed at a U.N. tribunal in Arusha, Tanzania. Observers hope this trial will get to the bottom of the massacre.

A top aide in Rwanda's Ministry of Defense, Theoneste Bagasora, and three of his colleagues stand accused of being the brains behind Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which Hutu extremists killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Their trial, which began in April 2002, re-opened in Arusha.

The three other defendants were top officers in the Rwandan army. All four have denied charges of genocide, other war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Observers say this is one of the most important trials in the tribunal's decade-long history.

A senior researcher at the South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies, Jean-Marie Gasana, explains why.

"We are expecting that, at the end of this case, judges and prosecution will give to the public understanding the conspiracy aspect of this terrible thing which has been planned, executed with efficiency in Rwanda," he said.

Mr. Gasana says the conspiracy and planning aspect of the genocide has not come out strongly in tribunal trials.

The tribunal was set up shortly after the genocide, and the first trial opened in 1997. Since then, 22 former government ministers, journalists, army officers, and others have been tried and most of them have been convicted of genocide. Another 21 suspects are under indictment.

The trial process is to end by 2008.