Arusha, November 4, (99 (FH) Detainees held by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) claim that their rights are being violated and are demanding "fair and equal trials". In a letter sent on to ICTR President Judge Navenethem Pillay on October 18th , by 26 of the 30 prisoners currently detained in Arusha, the inmates "note with grave concern the serious violation of their rights, particularly concerning irregular forms of arrest and the arbitrary prolongation of detention, the method of assigning defence counsel and the non-respect for the Statutes and Rules of Procedure and Evidence in the running of trials".

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The inmates also decry "the unequal treatment of the defence compared to the prosecution, and the Prosecutor's non respect for rulings handed down by the trial chambers in favour of the accused". In their fifteen-point letter of protest, the prisoners lay down the key obstacles preventing them from obtaining a fair and equal trial. These include the absence of an inquiry into the death of President Juvénal Habyarimana, the fact that the Arusha trials only focus on a part of the Rwandan genocide, "endless and misplaced modifications to indictments" and the inadequate protection of defence witnesses. "There is a general consensus by all the experts on Rwanda, including international Organisations, the UN and the OAU [Organisation of African Unity] that the death of President Habyarimana was the catalyst for the widespread massacres which occurred in Rwanda from April to July 1994. The Prosecutor reaffirms this in all the indictments but obstinately refuses to lead an inquiry into the matter" they assert. "As long as the circumstances surrounding the death of President Habyarimana are not clarified by independent investigators" argue the inmates, "the truth behind the Rwandan tragedy will never be revealed nor will justice be done". "Why", they ask, "does [the ICTR] not arrest those suspected of committing crimes in the zones occupied by the RPF?" [Rwandan Patriotic Front which was leading an armed uprising against the government at the time of the crimes]. With regard to amendments made to indictments, the accused protest that "the prosecutor's word tends to be taken as read by the judges […] at virtually every stage in the trial proceedings. " "The most flagrant example of this being the trials of Akayesu [former mayor of Taba, Gitarama prefecture, central Rwanda] and Musema [former director of the Gisovu Tea Factory, Kibuye prefecture, Eastern Rwanda] in which an additional count of rape was added at the eleventh hour just before the prosecutor had finished his presentation of evidence". On the issue of witness protection, inmates complain to the South African Judge that "where as prosecution witnesses are treated respectfully when giving testimonies before the ICTR and enjoy a double protection (both from the Rwandan Government and the ICTR), defence witnesses are harassed, intimidated and discouraged by officials working for the Rwandan Government and the Prosecutor, and receive inadequate protection from the ICTR witness protection services". Furthermore, "it has even been the case that the identities of supposedly protected defence witnesses have been revealed during public hearings. Without the ICTR's protection measures provided before, during and after their testimony, defence witnesses may no longer take the risk of coming to testify" they assert. Finally, the letter roundly condemns "the unequal treatment given to defence and prosecution witnesses by the ICTR". According to the disgruntled inmates, "the Prosecutor has colossal means at his disposal and enjoys the unconditional support of the Rwandan Government in carrying out its investigations. […] Yet the defence is subjected to drip-feeding by the Registrar, is given limited scope for travelling and is bridled by endless administrative procedures designed to paralyse it". The Tribunal has not yet replied to the letter. CR/AT/PHD/FH (TP§1104A)