Arusha, August 13th, '99 (FH) - Defence counsels for six genocide suspects known as the "Butare group" on Friday argued strongly against a motion to try their clients' jointly before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The six defendants are former Minister of Women's Development and Family Welfare Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, her son and former militia leader Arsène Ntahobali, former mayor of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Muganza Elie Ndayambaje and two former prefects of Butare Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo.

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All six are accused of planning and implementing attacks on ethnic Tutsis in the Butare region of southern Rwanda during the 1994 genocide. "All these accused were involved in a common transaction," Nigerian prosecutor Ibukun Olu Babagide told the court. "The accused have acted jointly and severally in pursuit of a common scheme. It is therefore proper that they should be joined together in a common trial. "He said told the court that there was "ample evidence" of such a conspiracy, and that it would be revealed "at the appropriate time". The motion for joinder comes after the court this week allowed amendment of all the indictments concerned, to incorporate consipracy and other new charges. The accused pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Babagide argued that joinder would be in the interests of justice and would speed up proceedings rather than slowing them down. He said it would save the court time and money, especially as witnesses could all be brought from Rwanda together. This, he said, was also important for witnesses and victims who had already suffered enough trauma and stress. "My Lords, for the protection of witnesses, to ensure the judicious use of resources of the tribunal and the Office of the Prosecutor, to ensure there is no multiplicity of evidence and testimony, [. . . ], it is the prayer of the prosecutor that you order the joinder of these cases. "Defence protestsHowever, defence counsels argued that there was no case for joinder, and that it would in any case go against the rights of the accused. They said there was nothing to prove conspiracy between their clients. "The joinder motion has no legal basis, " Nicole Bergevin, Canadian counsel for Nyiramasuhuko, argued. "The prosecutor has not produced a single element of proof that the accused acted together. There is nothing in the prosecutor's memorandum that shows a link between Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and the others, except for her son with whom she is already jointly charged. "Counsels argued that they had not been provided with all the necessary documentation, and that the motion had been introduced prematurely, without giving their clients enought ime to react the amended indictments. They also said they needed time to study the indictments of the other accused. Charles Tchakounté, Cameroonian defence counsel for Nsabimana, said the defence could not be asked to react without being given the necessary elements of proof. "There is concern on the part of the defence, " he said. "We feel that our rights are being violated through and through. [. . . ] The Chamber should make sure that the balance between the two parties is maintained. "Presiding judge Nevanethem Pillay of South Africa said the court considered the matter a complex and serious one, and that it would take the necessary time to reach a decision. JC/FH (BT0813e)