Arusha, February 10, 2000 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday ordered the withdrawal of Belgian lawyer Véronique Laurent from the case of former Rwandan mayor and genocide suspect Elie Ndayambaje, at the request of the defendant. "Having heard the reasons put forward by the accused, the Chamber finds that the accused has shown exceptional circumstances and orders the withdrawal of Véronique Laurent from the Ndayambaje case," said presiding judge Laity Kama of Senegal.

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"The Chamber also instructs the Registry to replace Mrs. Laurent rapidly. "The court pronounced its decision during a session scheduled to hear a defence motion from the accused, who was representing himself. Ndayambaje accused Laurent of "lack of communication with her client, lack of availability, failing to respect her obligations, improvising during hearings and lack of confidentiality in her handling of defence files". "Since she was appointed as my lawyer, Mrs Véronique Laurent has only made two visits of two days each to the detention facility to discuss things with me," Ndayambaje told the court. "She never reacts to my suggestions," he continued, "in September 1998 she abandoned me in the middle of a hearing, she improvises and does not prepare the court sessions, and she has given out confidential information concerning my defence, especially the list of my witnesses and how to reach them. Up to now, she has not taken on a co-counsel, assistant or investigators. "The former mayor told the court that his lawyer had asked his family for travel and living expenses to come to Arusha. Such costs are borne by the ICTR, since the accused has been declared indigent. Ndayambaje asked that he now be assigned "a competent lawyer who is available and can be trusted". He asked specifically for Canadian lawyer Pierre Boulet from the Quebec Bar. Ndayambaje was mayor of Muganza (Butare prefecture, southern Rwanda) during the 1994 genocide. He is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. The former mayor is expected to be tried as part of the so-called "Butare group", which includes former Minister of Women's Development and Family Welfare Pauline NyiramasuhukoBN/JC/FH (ND%0210E )