Arusha, July 11, 2000 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has rejected prosecution requests for a joint trial of eight former Rwandan ministers. It has also also ordered that former mayor Juvénal Kajelijeli be tried on his own, rather than in a joint trial sought by the prosecution.

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In a decision dated July 6th, the ICTR's Trial Chamber Two denied a prosecution motion for joinder of eight ex-members of the Rwandan interim government that presided over the 1994 genocide. The ministers concerned are: Edouard Karemera (Interior), André Rwamakuba (Education), Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda (Culture and Higher Education), Eliézer Niyitegeka (Information), Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce), Jérôme Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs) and Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service). The last four are already indicted together. The first two are indicted with former mayor Kajelijeli, former politicians Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Joseph Nzirorera, and three other genocide suspects who are still on the run. The prosecution had sought to separate Ngirumpatse, Nzirorera and Kajelijeli, who were not ministers, from the others, and to try all the ex-ministers together. However, the court already denied on June 29th a prosecution request to sever Kajelijeli, Ngirumpatse and Nzirorera, saying prosecutors had failed to show it was in the interests of justice. On July 6th, the court used similar arguments to deny severance for Karemera and Rwamakuba. It pointed out that they would first have to be severed from their current indictment if they were to be joined to the new one. "The proposed joinder cannot be effected if severance is denied," it said. "Therefore the Trial Chamber finds it unnecessary to review arguments pertaining to joinder in respect of Rwamakuba and Karemera. "The court said it could not consider the case of Niyitigeka at present, for procedural reasons. It rejected the joinder of Kamuhanda, saying that "the Trial Chamber is not satisfied that the Prosecutor has shown that all of the alleged acts of Kamuhanda form part of the same transaction as all of those of the Accused Bizimungu, Mugenzi, Mugirineza and Bicamumpaka". Kamuhanda's defence counsel had argued that Kamuhanada only became a minister in the interim government on May 25th, 1994, more than a month after the genocide started on April 6th. "Many of the paragraphs in the indictment against Kamuhanda appear to be general statements that do not refer to any time period," says the judges' decision. "Some of the paragraphs refer to specific acts of Interim Government Ministers prior to 25 May 1994, and therefore refer to a time period when Kamuhanda was not a minister. "The court further found that defence claims of "excessive globalization" by the Prosecutor were "of substance", and that "the Prosecutor's strategy may impinge on the rights of individual accused to a fair trial". It therefore concluded that "the proposed joinder is not in the interests of justice" and that "the requirements for joinder are not satisfied in respect of any of the accused that the Prosecutor seeks to join". As part of the same decision, the court ordered that Bicamumpaka's Canadian defence counsel Francine Veilleux should be denied payment for certain motions and requests which it considered "repetitive and frivolous". Separate trial for KajelijeliAlso on July 6th, the same court granted a defence motion to sever Kajelijeli from the other accused with whom he is indicted, and give him a separate trial. Kajelijeli's American lawyer Lennox Hinds had argued notably that the Prosecutor was trying to accuse his client of conspiracy with the others solely because he was arrested in Nzirorera's house. Trial Chamber Two said the fact that all the other co-accused were ministers and top executives of the MRND former single party "does not mean that the alleged culpability of the Accused (who only had local authority in a commune) would be lesser". But it said there were considerably fewer allegations against Kajelijeli and that "the concurrent presentation of evidence of all the co-accused in the same trial may be prejudicial to the Accused, and that such conflicts of interests constitute extraordinary circumstances that warrant a separate trial for the Accused". The court also found that a joint trial could prejudice the rights of the accused to a trial without undue delay. "For the instant case, the issue of delay is particularly pertinent," it said, "in view of the allegations by the Defence, that the Prosecutor has an inappropriate strategy of bootstrapping the Accused to other Ministers using the conspiracy law, against whom there may be more evidence, and that such strategy is unfair and unjust to the Accused. "The court further says that "because there are considerably fewer allegations against the Accused in the indictment, the amount of evidence the Prosecutor has may differ markedly in regard to this Accused. In light of this, the Trial Chamber therefore notes that concurrent presentation of evidence that is unrelated to the Accused may also deprive him of his right to be tried without undue delay. "In their decision, the judges concluded that a joint trial could deny Kajelijeli his right to a fair trial because evidence brought against the co-accused "could have a negative spillover effect and unfairly magnify the responsibilities and activities of the Accused". They said he would probably not enjoy the same rights to a fair trial as he would if he were tried separately. Trial Chamber Two is composed of Judge Laity Kama of Senegal presiding, Judge William Sekule of Tanzania and Judge Mehmet Güney of Turkey. JC/FH (PL%0711e)