Arusha, November 5th, '99 - Rwanda applauded the recent visit by judges from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, according to the ICTR representative for Rwanda, Martin Ngoga. "We are satisfied with the visit, and convinced that the ICTR judges will now be better able to establish justice, having visited the sites of the alleged crimes" said Martin Ngoga in a telephone interview from Kigali on Thursday evening to the independent news agency Hirondelle.

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The ICTR representative said he hoped that such visits would become more frequent as they were clearly in the interests of justice. "We hope that the trial chamber's trip will encourage other ICTR judges to come here, not necessarily in the context of a trial, but simply to see the genocide sites and its victims" continued Martin Ngoga. The ICTR's second trial chamber - presided by the Norwegian Eric Mose - is made up, among others, of the Turkish judge Mehemet Güney and the Sri Lankan Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana. The trio travelled to Rwanda on November 4th to visit the places cited in the indictment of the former mayor of Mabanza (Kibuye préfecture, eastern Rwanda) Ignace Bagilishema, who stands accused of genocide and crimes against humanity. When asked whether the recent concern expressed by some accused and their lawyers that his new post might bias the ICTR and jeopardise the security of defence teams, witnesses and even detainees, Martin Ngoga dismissed this as "unfounded". "It is not in the interest of Rwanda that the Arusha trials be influenced. On the contrary, we are committed to fair trials" stressed Ngoga. He added, "the defence and its witnesses have nothing to fear", since " there are always prosecution and defence witnesses in the trials taking place in Rwanda, and the latter have never been under worried". "We will certainly not be pursuing defence witnesses abroad" assured Martin Ngoga. Regarding any influence he may exert over the ICTR, the representative for Rwanda pointed out that "while I did say that I intended to influence the tribunal, my role will be to offer persuasive opinions. I intend to fully respect its independence and Statutes. "Martin Ngoga was appointed Rwandan representative to the ICTR on September 30th. In mid-October he paid a three-day visit to the ICTR headquarters in Arusha and is expected to move there permanently in the near future. CR/AT/FH (RW§1105A)