Arusha, August 10th, '99 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday granted the prosecution leave to amend the indictments against three of six accused it wants to group in a joint trial. The three are Elie Ndayambaje, former mayor of Muganza (Butare prefecture, southern Rwanda), former Minister of Women's Development and Family Welfare Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and former militia leader Arsène Ntahobali.

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Nyiramasuhuko and her son Ntahobali had already been jointly charged. The new charges include conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide. Additional crimes against humanity charges include one of rape against Nyiramasuhuko. The accused are due to appear in court on Thursday to plead guilty or not guilty to the new charges. These three are part of the so-called "Butare group", whom the prosecution plans to bring together in a joint trial. It has also requested indictment amendments for the other members of the group: former mayor of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi, and two former prefects of Butare Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo. The court is expected to deliver a decision on Thursday on the prosecutor's request for leave to amend the indictment of Nsabimana and Nteziryayo. Hearing of the amendment request for Kanyabashi was yesterday postponed, after his defence lawyer raised legal objections to the presence of Tanzanian judge William Sekule. The hearing resumed on Wednesday afternoon with Jamaican judge Llloyd George Williams replacing Sekule. The Rwanda tribunal is also pushing ahead with procedures to join two other groups of accused, known as military group and the Cyangugu group. The military group comprises four accused, including the former top advisor to the Rwandan defence Ministry Théoneste Bagosora. Hearings began on Tuesday to join the indictments of the Cyangugu group. They are former Minister for Transport and Communications André Ntagerura, former prefect of Cyangugu Emmanuel Bagambiki and former military commander Samuel Imanishimwe. The hearing continues on Wednesday. The prosecutor's requests for joinder were held up for almost a year by a defence lawyers' appeal regarding who could hear the amendment and joinder motions. On June 3rd this year, the ICTR Appeals Court in The Hague rendered a decision, saying that the composition of trial chambers was not cast in stone. However, it said the prosecutor may only request amendments to an indictment from the court where the accused made his or her initial appearance. Outgoing Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour has for years been pushing for more joint trials, to speed up proceedings at the ICTR. Two other joint trials are in the works, involving the so-called media group (three people) and the so-called politicians, of whom five are currently in custody. Speaking to Hirondelle on Monday, Arbour expressed the view that court proceedings would speed up. "The critical part to me now is that we bring closure to the fact that these proceedings have been in abeyance for some time," she said, "that we get a judicial calendar in good shape and that we launch into the Fall with a large number of trials ready to go, scheduled and heard. I think that now with the three chambers in place, courtrooms ready and so on, everything is poised to provide an acceleration of judicial proceedings. "JC/FH (BU§0810e)