Arusha, November 17th, '99 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday rejected a motion from genocide suspect and former Rwandan Interior Minister Edouard Karemera, seeking to disqualify two judges from hearing his pre-trial motions. Karemera was seeking to have judges Laity Kama (Senegal) and William Sekule (Tanzania) replaced on grounds that they were not neutral.

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The accused said Kama had signed the warrants for his arrest, transfer to Arusha on July 11, 1998, and preventive detention. He said Sekule could not be on the bench because the Tanzanian judge was one of those sitting at the accused's initial appearance. But the ICTR, presided by South African judge Navanethem Pillay, threw out the motion on grounds that it was not well-founded in law. Karemera announced his intention to contest the tribunal's decision. The accused, who was defending himself, then presented two more motions before Trial Chamber Two, seeking his release on grounds that his rights were violated, and also the return of personal effects seized during a raid on his Togo residence in June 1998. The judges said they would deliberate on the motions. Trial Chamber Two on Wednesday also postponed until further notice a defence motion seeking the release of former Foreign Minister Jérôme Bicamumpaka. And it referred to the ICTR's highest panel of judges a request from another former politician, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, seeking to disqualify all the judges of the Chamber. Trial Chamber Two is composed of judges Kama, Sekule and Turkish judge Mehmet Guney. "This request is very important," said presiding judge Kama, "and we have to deal with it before we can proceed with other stages of the trial. "Ngirumpatse was head of the MRND party of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana. He is accused jointly with Karemera, Bicamumpaka and other former Rwandan politicians of genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. JMG/CR/JC/KAT/FH (KA§1117e)