Arusha, February 1, 2000 (FH) - The trial of former Rwandan mayor Ignace Bagilishema, the only trial currently before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), was on Monday suspended for a week, owing to lack of witnesses. The suspension comes after the court last week ordered the prosecution to remove four witnesses from its list because their testimonies had not been submitted within 60 days of the start of trial, as required by Tribunal rules.

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Those four witnesses were due to appear in court this week, and the prosecution has not managed to bring other witnesses in time to fill the gap. "These are special witnesses and it's not easy to organize for them to travel," said Ugandan prosecutor Jane Anywar Adong. The prosecution is expected to bring three witnesses from prison in Rwanda, and one expert witness from Europe before it finsihes presenting its case. On Monday the court heard the thirteenth witness for the prosecution, dubbed Witness J to protect her identity. The witness, a 39-year-old Tutsi woman, said she was living in Bagilishema's commune of Mabanza (Kibuye prefecture, western Rwanda) during the genocide in 1994. She told the court that the genocide had been planned by the ruling party of the time, the MRND, and that Bagilishema was the local MRND leader. "They set up an ethnic quota system," Witness J told the court, "especially in the schools, and Tutsis were persecuted. " However, when cross-questioned by Mauritanian defence lawyer Maroufa Diabira, she was unable to give an example of someone who was refused education in Mabanza because they were Tutsi. At the close of session, presiding judge Erik Mose of Norway urged the prosecution to make every possible effort to ensure that witnesses would be in court next Monday for the continuation of hearings. Bagilishema's trial has been marked by friction between the prosecution and defence over the prosecution's witnesses. In November the prosecution suddenly withdrew two witnesses, a move which the head of the defence team, French lawyer François Roux, called "unacceptable". "This sudden withdrawal of two witnesses means further disruption of the trial," he said. Bagilishema was mayor of Mabanza commune during the genocide which left up to one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead between April and July 1994. He is charged with genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions on war crimes. CR/JC/FH (BS%0201)