Arusha, September 20th, '99 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has denied a defence request for protective measures for former Rwandan army officer Bernard Ntuyahaga. Ntuyahaga is currently under arrest by the Tanzanian authorities, who are considering a request for his extradition to Rwanda.

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Defence counsel for top genocide suspect Théoneste Bagosora, who is awaiting trial at the ICTR, argued that Ntuyahaga would be a key witness in his client's trial, and that the former army officer should be protected to ensure he appear in the Bagosora trial. In a submission to the court on August 17th, French lawyer Raphael Constant argued that Ntuyahaga's life would be at risk if he were sent to Rwanda. He urged the ICTR to order Tanzania to suspend hearings of the extradition request and take "all necessary steps [. . . ] to ensure the safety and security of Bernard Ntuyahaga until he appears as a witness in the trial of Mr. Bagosora". However, Trial Chamber Three ruled that the motion was premature; that the defence had not produced sufficient evidence regarding the threat to Ntuyahaga's life and his importance to the Bagosora trial; and said that in any case it had no power to serve such an order on Tanzania. "There is no provision in the Statute or Rules enabling the tribunal to direct the Tanzanian government to order a stay of extradition proceedings, until an undetermined date, on which it is anticipated that the proposed witness might give evidence," the court said. "It is unknown at this time if the Tanzanian Court will order the extradition of Ntuyahaga, and if Ntuyahaga is extradited, when he will be tried and whether he will be convicted," says the ruling, rendered on August 13th but not made public until one week later. "In the event that Ntuyahaga is tried and convicted in Rwanda before the trial of Bagosora, the Defence did not present sufficient evidence [. . . ] that Rwanda would fail to cooperate with a request from the Tribunal to stay Ntuyahaga's execution until after his testimony in the trial of Bagosora. "The court said it was not known whether Ntuyahaga would even agree to testify. In any case, it said that "there are measures available to the Defence to ensure Ntuyahaga's evidence is presented to this Trial Chamber, and to protect Bagosora's right to a fair trial. " If Ntuyahaga's evidence were proved to be necessary, the court said "it could consider granting an order that such evidence be given by deposition or by means of a video-conference". Furthermore, the chamber presided by Jamaican judge Lloyd George Williams said that the extradition proceddings were a matter between two sovereign states, and that "the Tribunal should not interfere with this process or with matters affecting the sovereignty of Tanzania". Constant had argued that Ntuyahaga would be a vital witness regarding the murder of ten Belgian UN peacekeepers and former Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, in Kigali on April 7th, 1994. They were among the first victims of the genocide, which left up to one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead. At the time, Bagosora was top advisor ("directeur de cabinet") at the Rwandan Defence Ministry, while Ntuyahaga was a top commanding officer for army logistics. Ntuyahaga turned himself in to the UN tribunal in July last year, asking to be a protected witness. He was subsequently indicted for the murder of the ten Belgian peacekeepers. However, the ICTR released him on March 29th this year, after the prosecution asked for the indictment against him to be withdrawn. He was arrested by the Tanzanian authorities the same day. Both Belgium and Rwanda put in an extradition request. Tanzanian authorities rejected the Belgian one, on the grounds that a suspect can only be extradited to the country where the alleged crimes were committed. Hearings of the Rwandan extradition request have been assigned to a court in Dar es Salaam and are due to begin in earnest on September 27th. JC/FH (BG§0920e)