Arusha, June 25, 2001 (FH) - Prosecutors on Monday asked theInternational Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to order an investigationinto alleged contempt and misrepresentation by defence investigators in theso-called Butare Trial of six accused. They earlier retracted seriousallegations against one defence investigator.

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However, the defence said thedamage had been done, and called for sanctions. American prosecutor Gregory Townsend urged the court to order aninvestigation into allegations that four defence team members approachedfour prosecution witnesses in Butare, southern Rwanda, "on or about 1 to 6June 2001" with a view to persuading them not to testify. The prosecutor'smotion alleges that the defence team falsely represented themselves as ICTRinvestigators and also tried to obtain information under false pretences. It says the team was apparently led by Boubou Diabira, a Mauritanianinvestigator for the accused Joseph Kanyabashi. Other team members are saidto have been a "white man", allegedly the son-in-law of Kanyabashi, and an"interpreter" named Joseph Biroto Nzabirinda, who is an investigator forthe accused Sylvain Nsabimana. The fourth person is not named. Defence haveproduced affidavits to the effect that none of those named were in Butareon the dates mentioned. "The defence makes much of dates," Townsend told the court, "but at thispoint the dates are not important. Only an investigation can decide ifcontemptuous behaviour has occurred or not and on what dates. " He stressedthat the matter was urgent because "Boubou may be in Butare now". The Prosecutor originally alleged that: "An interpreter with the Defenceteam was identified by a prosecution witness as Rwandan national and aformer member of the Interahamwe (Hutu militia), by the name of JosephBiroto Nzabirinda". However, after Nsabimana's defence filed its response,the Prosecutor said she "withdraws the references to Joseph BirotoNzabirinda. Since the filing of her Extremely Urgent Motion, she has newinformation that there was an error with regard to Nzabirinda". However, Nsabimana's counsel Charles Tchakoute Patie of Cameroon told thecourt that this was not enough. "The prosecutor has withdrawn herallegation against our investigator. But the desired effect has alreadybeen achieved. The media have already picked it up. And you know the factof just saying that a Rwandan was an Interahamwe is a very very seriousthreat to his life. "Tchakoute asked the court to mention the retraction specifically inwhatever decision it pronounced and to order that the Prosecutor apologizepublicly. He also called for sanctions on the Prosecutor "because webelieve that this manner of proceeding constitutes an impediment to thegood administration of justice". Tchakoute said that the investigatorNzabirinda was now "seized with fear" and that the allegations against himhad "paralysed the defence". Defence counsels for all the accused (except Ntahobali who has rejectedhis lawyers) filed responses to the motion. They strongly reject theProsecutor's allegations, saying that the Prosecutor's request does notstand up in law, and that the motion is designed to undermine the defence. Only counsel for Nyiramasuhuko called for an investigation to be carriedout, "so as to dispel definitively the climate of suspicion that seems tobe hanging over defence teams at the ICTR". The so-called Butare case groups former Minister of Women's DevelopmentPauline Nyiramasuhuko, her son and former militia leader Arsène Ntahobali,former mayor of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi, former mayor of Muganza ElieNdayambaje and two former prefects of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana andAlphonse Nteziryayo. All are charged with genocide and crimes againsthumanity for their alleged role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The case is before Trial Chamber Two of the the ICTR, composed of JudgesWilliam Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson ofMadagascar and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho. They will nowdeliberate before delivering a decision on the Prosecutor's motion. JC/FH (BT0625e)