Arusha, March 22nd, 2001 (FH) The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said on Thursday it had rejected a request from genocide suspect Hassan Ngeze to have his defence lawyers fired. Ngeze asked last month that the court withdraw the mandate of his lead counsel John Floyd of the US and co-counsel René Martel of Canada because, he said, he had lost confidence in them.

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The court heard the motion behind closed doors. Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa announced Thursday that the court had rejected the request, but did not give reasons. She said the text of the decision would be available shortly. Ngeze is being tried with two other suspects linked to media which incited Hutus to kill Tutsis during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. They are Ferdinand Nahimana, former director of "hate radio" RTLM, and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, an ex-politician and RTLM board member. The case is being heard by Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of judges Pillay (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. Judge Pillay said that Judge Gunawardana had issued a dissenting opinion on the Ngeze request, but no further details are available as yet. Ngeze called on February 15th for the sacking of his co-counsel Martel, accusing him of “hatching that plot” to fire three members of his defence team (a legal assistant and two investigators). In a letter of February 17th, Ngeze reproached both his lawyers for requesting “unclear and undocumented adjournments” of his motion to have all charges dropped. The motion is based on the claim that Ngeze’s rights have been grossly violated, in particular through the alleged theft of defence documents during a January 10th UN security search of his detention cell. The search was conducted after the ICTR learned that Ngeze had a website containing illegal photographs. In a separate “press release” on February 18th, Ngeze also responded angrily to reports that the Registry had ordered a psychiatric evaluation of the defendant. “I condemn all kinds of mean maneuvers [sic] which are hatched to blur my truths with irrelevant endeavors by the Registry in conspiracy with my Lawyers and thus dilute the substance of my sound claims submitted to the attention of the tribunal,” Ngeze wrote. Ngeze’s lawyers are known to have submitted a motion to the court concerning the psychiatric evaluation, which was approved and carried out by the ICTR. The court has not yet announced its decision. The defendant had been sporadically boycotting his trial. However, in recent weeks, and despite his request to have the lawyers fired, he has come to court and has been seen consulting both his counsels during hearings. On Thursday, the court continued the hearing of a fourteenth prosecution witness, who was testifying against Barayagwiza. A new witness is due to be introduced on Monday. JC/AT/FH (ME_0322E)