Arusha, June 15, 2001 (FH) One of the six accused in the so-called Butare Trial, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, on Friday asked the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to dismiss his lawyers, saying they were undermining his case. Alleged former militiaman Ntahobali is represented by René St-Leger (Haiti/Canada) and James Michael Bailey of the US.

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But he said he wanted them sacked because "they are lacking in professionalism " and "they do not have the trust or mandate to represent me". Ntahobali said that his counsel were trying to act against him by "going along the same lines with the Prosecutor. " He also told the court he found it impossible to continue with them and that they had not been communicating. Ntahobali asked Trial Chamber Two to order the assignment of new lawyers, and to let him represent himself in the meantime. "Even their passive presence in the trial prejudices me irreparably," he claimed. St-Léger admitted that there had been communication problems between counsel and their client, but said these could be resolved, notably through the mediation of the defence investigator. "We hope to re-establish lines of communication with the accused very shortly," St-Léger told the court. "We are professional lawyers. It is not the first time we have been in such a situation. "Ntahobali nevertheless stuck to his position. "This is my trial, not the investigator's nor the lawyers'," he told the court. "With these gentlemen, I cannot get justice. I would rather represent myself. "Prosecution argued that there were no exceptional circumstances (as required under ICTR Rules) that would warrant the assignment of new counsel. They said that to allow Ntahobali to change his lawyers would slow down trial proceedings and would be a case of "the tail wagging the dog". Prosecution further argued that some of Ntahobali's arguments had been dealt with in other cases. They cited Media suspect Hassan Ngeze who has also fallen out with his lawyers and wanted the ICTR to assign new ones. But the ICTR's Trial Chamber One turned down that motion. "Trial Chamber One has taken a more robust approach," said prosecution. Ntahobali is co-accused with five others including his mother, former Minister for Family and Women's Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. The others are former Butare prefects Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo, and former mayors of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi and Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje. All six are accused of genocide and crimes against humanity in the southern Rwandan region of Butare during the 1994 genocide. The court will deliver its decision at a later date. This case is before Trial Chamber Two, composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho. SW/JC/FH (BT0615e)