On Tuesday, January 10, 2012, the experts that were appointed by the judges Trevidic and Poux revealed their findings with regard to the investigation into the culprit of the terrorist attack of 6 April 1994 that particularly took away the lives of President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and his counterpart President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi.
In front of an audience of thirty people including the plaintiffs, the defense counsel of the suspects (RPF members close to President Paul Kagame) and the prosecutors, the experts shared their findings at the High Court of Paris before an attentive audience.
For nearly 4 hours, from 2pm to 6pm, the judge Trevidic, along with Nathalie Poux, the second judge in this case, introduced the report of over 300 pages.
But the main content was presented by the experts who were present for the occasion. One after another, expert surveyor, expert in explosives, expert in arms, expert in aviation and expert in acoustics, who joined the investigation team, gave to the audience their conclusions based on their respective fields of expertise.
According to preliminary information gathered by Jambonews, the experts, upon putting together their findings, identified four certainties:
The first certainty is that through a process of elimination, the experts confirmed that the aircraft was shot down by a portable missile SA-16 (SAM 16) made in former Soviet-Union.
The second certainty is that there have been two shots including a missile that missed the plane and another missile that hit the plane.
The third certainty is that the reactors of the aircraft were not affected by the missiles and remained intact.
The fourth certainty is that the left wing of the aircraft was hit. Indeed, analysis of the wreckage shows that the missile hit the tank in the left wing.
With these elements, the mission of the experts’ team was to determine the location from where the missiles were fired, a crucial part of this investigation into the attack that plunged Rwanda into the horror.
None of the experts could determine alone the launching site which was determined by cross-checking all expertise and analyzing testimonies, twelve in total.
In total, six possible launching sites have been identified by the experts through a process of elimination in order to identify the most likely location.
The ideal position for an experienced shooter was, according to experts, the site of Masaka (either the farm or the valley). But the experts judged that such a site was to be dismissed due to two factors identified as critical.
The first factor is the story of three prominent witnesses, a French soldier and two Belgian military doctors who were present that day at Kanombe military barrack and said that they heard the blast of missiles. The acoustics expert said that it was impossible to hear the blowing of missiles from Masaka, located more than 3 kilometers away. He believes that, given the distance, the plane would have already hit the ground before anyone can hear the blowing of the missiles.
The second factor is the impact of the missile and the occurrence that the missile hit the left wing of the aircraft. According to experts, the missiles usually follow the heat of their target. But when the plane was shot down, it had already passed the Masaka hill, which means that if the missile had come from behind (i.e. from Masaka) it would have reached the reactor instead of the left wing of the device. The experts’ conclusion on this point is therefore that the missile came forward before reaching the left wing of the aircraft.
However, the aviation expert orally argued that she cannot be categorical on this last point, because as the experts agreed, the first missile missed its target. It is therefore possible that the pilots changed the trajectory of the aircraft.
Another hypothesis that was put forward by the experts but was immediately ruled out is that of the barnyard that was located in the courtyard of the assassinated President. This hypothesis has been quickly rejected because the experts estimate that if the missile had been launched from there, it would have reached the right side of the aircraft, not the left one.
In light of these factors identified as critical by the experts, the experts concluded that “the firing of the two missiles, the second of which shot down the presidential plane (Falcon 50), may have taken place from the Kanombe camp (military barracks ), located near to the Belgian development aid workers’ residences.”
Another insight from the experts is that the missiles SAM-16 utilized to shoot down the aircraft were used by specialists because their use requires an extensive training of at least 50 to 60 hours. The experts also stressed that there were two shooters.
At the end of the presentation, Judge Marc Trevidic, who read the conclusions of the experts alternately with judge Nathalie Poux, said that all parties had three months to provide comments on the report of the experts; they may also request a counter expertise.
After collecting all the comments, the judges Trevidic and Poux will analyze the experts’ report in the light of other facts of the case, especially the many testimonies.
Pending the outcome of the investigation of the judges, nobody is exonerated and nobody is charged; this is by the way not the role of the experts.
It is up to the judges Trevidic and Poux, at the end of the investigation, to publish a full report about the possible involvement of RPF members suspected of being behind the terrorist attack or eventually charge other suspects.