Arusha, February 25, 2000(FH) - Judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have agreed a number of changes to the Tribunal's rules, aimed at speeding up judicial proceedings, the independent news agency Hirondelle reports. The changes were agreed at an extraordinary session of Trial Chamber and Appeals Court judges which ended on Monday.

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Official sources said the rule changes were also inspired by the desire to harmonise the rules of the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). "The judges feel that the two international criminal tribunals, the only ones in the world, are enhancing the standards of international justice," ICTR spokesman Kingsley Moghalu told the press earlier this week. "There is therefore a strong feeling that there is need for more convergence of procedures. "Moghalu gave the following examples of rule changes, which he said take immediate effect:Disqualification of judges: Rule 15c of the ICTR's Rules of Procedure and Evidence has been amended to allow a judge who confirms an indictment against an accused person to sit on a panel of judges adjudicating his case. Previously, this was not allowed, and the rule had resulted in numerous motions from defendants challenging the competence of the judges. These motions were the cause of procedural delays lasting several months in some cases. Moghalu said the judges had agreed the change on the basis that "a judge here is a professional, and there is no reason to believe that confirming an indictment will prejudice him or her. We expect this amendment will remove one of the major reasons why trials are delayed". Practice Directives: Rule 19 was amended to allow the President of the Tribunal to issue Practice Directives addressing detailed aspects of proceedings before the ICTR. This is to be done in consultation with the Bureau of the Tribunal (President, Vice-President and the more senior presiding Judge of the Trial Chambers), the Registrar and the Prosecutor. Moghalu said this would speed things up because "some problems need to be resolved now". He said a likely area for Practice Directives would be enforcement of sentences, especially now that the Appeals Court has closed the first case (former regional militia leader Omar Serushago). Moghalu said there were no specific provisions in the ICTR Rules on how sentences were to be enforced or who was to make the decision. Serushago is expected to be sent to prison in Mali or Benin, the only two countries to have finalised agreements with the Tribunal offering prison space. Translation problems: Article 12 of the Registry's Directive on the Court Management section has been amended, empowering the Registry to ensure that documents are filed in both English and French. The ICTR says "the adoption of this new regulation should help reduce the burden on the Tribunal's Language and Conference services Section and enhance the effectiveness of this key aspect of support to the judicial proceedings. "Moghalu told the press it was likely that defence counsels would in future be asked to make their own arrangements for translation of documents, and the Registry would then reimburse them. Some journalists expressed concern that this could place an additional burden on the shoulders of defence teams. Appeals proceedings: Several provisions of the Rules have been amended to try to speed up Appeals proceedings. For example, Rule 108 bis now says that the presiding judge of the Appeals Chamber can designate a "pre-hearing judge" from among the Appeals judges, to be responsible for pre-hearing proceedings. This judge, says the ICTR, "will take all necessary procedural measures to ensure that the case is not unduly delayed and prepare the case for a fair and expeditious hearing". The ICTR has been much criticised in the past for the slowness of its trial proceedings. Since it was set up to judge perpetrators of the 1994 genocide, it has passed sentences on 7 individuals. Two of these pleaded guilty, meaning that a full trial was not necessary. More than 40 people are now in ICTR custody, and the Prosecution says it is actively investigating about 90 others. A recently published experts' report for the UN Secretary-General found that the effective functioning of the ICTR and ICTY was being hampered by pre-trial delays and prolonged trials. JC/FH (PY%0225e)