Arusha, June 18, 2001 (FH) Defence teams in the so-called Media Trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday told the court that they objected to a new judge replacing sitting judge Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka on the case. Gunawardana has been named to go to the Appeals Chamber of the ICTR and International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

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According to Tribunal Rules, once a trial has reached an advanced stage, a sitting judge can only be replaced with the consent of the defence. The court had hoped that counsel for the three defendants would approve Gunawardana's replacement by new judge Andrésia Vaz of Senegal, who has not yet arrived at the ICTR. The case groups three suspects accused of using the media to fuel the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. They are former "Kangura" newspaper editor Hassan Ngeze, former director of Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) Ferdinand Nahimana, and former politician and RTLM board member Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. On Tuesday the court is expected to start hearing the testimony of the 23rd out of about 40 expected prosecution witnesses. The defence has yet to present its case. "Hassan Ngeze has filed a motion. He does not consent to the recusal of Judge Gunawardana and the substitution of a new judge for the remainder of the trial," Ngeze's American lawyer John Floyd told the court. "We are in the same position," Nahimana's British co-counsel Diana Ellis said. "We hope it is not unduly inconvenient, but having been in trial for nine months, we would not consider the substitution of a new judge. "Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa then turned to Barayagwiza's co-counsel Alfred Pognon of Benin, saying she assumed he had no instructions from his client. Barayagwiza has been boycotting the trial since it started last October 23rd and is being represented against his will. Pognon replied that he had instructions from the lead counsel, Giacomo Barletta Caldarere of Italy. "We would wish that the trial continue with the same composition of the Chamber," Pognon said. Informed sources say this means that, with the consent of the Appeals Chamber, Gunawardana will probably have to split his time between Arusha and The Hague for the duration of the Media Trial. If, however, the Appeals Chamber does not consent, the only remaining option would be that Judge Vaz go to the Appeals Chamber. The judges have agreed, however, that it should preferably be an experienced ICTR judge rather than a new one who goes to The Hague. The UN Security Council last November approved two new judges for the ICTR, so that two could be sent to boost the Appeals Chamber and ease its backlog of work. Two new judges, Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho and Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar, were recently sworn in but are already in trial on another case. Judge Vaz was appointed by the UN Secretary-General to replace Judge Laity Kama of Senegal, who died in May. JC/PHD/FH (ME0618f)