Arusha, November 29th, '99 (FH) - Prosecutors in the trial of former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) they were withdrawing two witnesses who were due to be heard on Monday. In a hearing lasting only 20 minutes, lead prosecutor Jane Anywar Adong of Uganda said the prosecution had decided to withdraw Witnesses C and R from its list.

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"The prosecution has the right to remove people from its witness list at a certain stage in the proceedings," presiding judge Eric Mose of Norway confirmed. He told the court that there were no more witnesses to be heard before the Christmas break, "due to the problems involved in bringing witnesses from Rwanda". However, Bagilishema's French defence lawyer François Roux told the court that "this situation is both extraordinary and unacceptable". "This sudden withdrawal of witnesses continues to disrupt the trial," Roux said. "Thanks to errors by the prosecution, the court has only managed to hear two of their witnesses in the last ten days of proceedings. That is detrimental to the rights of the accused, who has difficulty in organizing his defence. "Speaking to Hirondelle afterwards, Roux said: "The prosecution has built its indictment on the basis of witness statements, and then when it comes to the trial, they withdraw the witnesses. We contest both the legal basis on which they have done this and their working methods. "Bagilishema was mayor of Mabanza (Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda) from February 1980 to July 1994. He is charged with seven counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity (murder, extermination and other inhumane acts) and seriousviolations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. His trial began on October 27th before Trial Chamber I of the ICTR, composed of judges Eric Mose of Norway presiding, Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardena (Sri Lanka) and Mehmet Guney (Turkey). From November 1st to 4th, the Chamber paid the first ever judicial visit to Rwanda in the history of the ICTR. Judges, prosecutors and defence teams working on the trial visited sites linked to Bagilishema's alleged crimes. Out of 27 witnesses the prosecution now intends to call, eight have been heard so far. These include two prosecution investigators who appeared as expert wtinesses. CR/JC (BS§1129e)