Arusha, January 24, 2000 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has rejected genocide suspect Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza's request for a new lawyer ahead of a crucial Appeals Court hearing. The ICTR Appeals Court, normally based in The Hague (Netherlands), is due to sit in Arusha on February 15th to hear the Prosecutor's request for a review of its November 3rd decision to release Barayagwiza on procedural grounds.

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The release order has been stayed pending the hearing. In a decision dated January 19th, ICTR President Navanethem Pillay, notes that ICTR rules provide for withdrawal of an assigned defence counsel if exeptional circumstances can be shown. But she concluded that "no exceptional circumstance has been made out to warrant a change of counsel, for purposes of the Review proceeding". Pillay therefore confirmed a January 5th decision of the ICTR Registrar, to whom Barayagwiza had earlier submitted his request. The defendant wants to reject his Kenyan defence lawyer, Justry Patrick Lumumba Nyaberi, who has been representing him since December 1997. "Mr Barayagwiza avers that his counsel lacks competence, honesty, loyalty, diligence and interest," says the decision of the ICTR president, "and that these factors constitute exceptional circumstances warranting the withdrawal of Mr. Nyaberi. " But she noted that the February 15th hearing was the only matter pending in Barayagwiza's case and that Nyaberi had filed a response in plenty of time. "It is a substantial response, evidencing research and consultation, addresses factual, procedural and legal arguments and appears to have been prepared in a competent and professional manner," writes Judge Pillay. "The Review proceeding before the Appeal Chamber involves complex legal issues. The hearing date is also imminent and I am mindful that a change of counsel at this late stage will unduly delay the proceeding. "The Rwandan government has also asked to appear as amicus curiae (friend of the court) at the February 15th hearing. Rwanda suspended cooperation with the ICTR after the Appeals Court decision ordering that Barayagwiza should be released and sent back to Cemeroon where he was arrested. The Appeals Court decision was based on the finding that proceedings had been repeatedly violated during Barayagwiza's initial detention in Cameroon and after his transfer to the ICTR prison in Arusha. New Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is seeking a review of the decision on grounds that she has "new facts". Barayagwiza was a founder of the hate radio Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, which incited Hutus to kill Tutsis, and of the extremist CDR political party. He was also policy advisor to the foreign ministry of the Rwandan interim government which presided over the 1994 genocide. JC/FH (BR%0124e)