Arusha, June 23rd, 2000 (FH) - Appeals Court judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will be in Arusha next week for the ICTR's eighth plenary session, followed by the hearing of an appeal by former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda. Monday's one-day plenary session brings together the nine judges of the ICTR and the five Appeals Court judges who are normally based in The Hague, Netherlands.

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At extraordinary plenary in February this year, the judges agreed a number of changes to the Tribunal's rules, aimed at speeding up judicial proceedings. They are likely to review these changes and possibly decide additional ones. From Tuesday to Friday the Appeals Court will hear the appeal of former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda, who was sentenced to life imprisonment on September 4th, 1998, after pleading guilty to all charges, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. Kambanda is now asking to retract his guilty plea. Kambanda's Dutch lawyer Tjarda Eduard van der Spoel (Netherlands) claims that the ICTR was legally wrong to accept the validity of the accord in which Kambanda agreed to plead guilty. He says the Tribunal should not have done so without investigating "the fact that the guilty plea was not voluntary, and/or was ill-informed and/or was not explicit". The defence is asking the Appeals Court to annul the guilty verdict and order a new trial. Observers suggest that part of the reason why Kambanda chose to rescind his plea was his dissatisfaction with the work of his defence lawyer at the time, Cameroonian Oliver Michael Inglis. Kambanda alleges that his counsel did little to secure his rights. A week after judges handed down the harshest punishment they could give to a man who had cooperated with the court's investigation, Kambanda wrote a bitter, five-page letter to the ICTR registry, accusing his lawyer of working against him. Kambanda implied that Inglis, who had been a friend of the Tribunal's Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna for 30 years, had been hastily appointed to him despite his 1997 request for another lawyer. He said Inglis was negligent, allowing his case to be tainted by "procedural flaws, which border on scandalous". His letter also complained that Inglis had failed to secure Kambanda's sole request in his plea agreement: the protection of his family in exile. Kambanda was Prime Minister of the interim government that presided over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. His guilty plea became a cornerstone of prosecution strategy to show that the genocide was planned and that other political leaders at the time should be prosecuted. It is also at the heart of the prosecution's current strategy to hold joint trials. JC/FH (CL%0623e)