Arusha, September 14, 2001 (FH) The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Friday granted permission for prosecution to bring a new, key witness in the ongoing Media trial, and for that witness to testify by videoconference if he fears to come to Arusha. However, one of the three court judges rejected the Prosecutor's motion, arguing that there was no case to introduce a new witness nine months into the trial.

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The so-called Media trial groups three suspects accused of using the media to incite the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Facing genocide charges in the case are Ferdinand Nahimana, founder and alleged director of "hate radio" RTLM; Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a former politician and board member of RTLM; and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of newspaper "Kangura". The new witness will be referred to as "Witness X", to protect his identity. Trial Chamber One ordered the ICTR Registry "to clarify whether Witness X is willing to testify in Arusha under stringent security measures, and to report to the Chamber forthwith. In the event of a negative response, the court said it "directs the Registry to make the necessary arrangements for Witness X to give his testimony by means of video-link conference in The Hague". This would be the first time that a witness testified to the ICTR by videoconferencing. In 1997, former Interahamwe militia leader Georges Rutaganda asked that some of his witnesses in a refugee camp in ex-Zaire be allowed to testify by videoconferencing. However, the request was not granted. A "key witness"Prosecution said that Witness X had been "assisting the Prosecutor in its investigation and tracking of suspects for some time", had protective status in a host country and had recently reconsidered his previous unwillingness to testify, provided there was appropriate security. The Prosecutor said she had been aware of Witness X for some time but had only "formed the intention to use him as a witness in this case, in June-August 2001". She argued that Witness X is "a key witness whose testimony will be equivalent of six witnesses and thereby result in the Prosecution dispensing with six witnesses". It appears that this witness's testimony will be particularly crucial against Nahimana. Prosecution said Witness X would: "rebut points raised in the Defence's pre-trial brief such as Nahimana's involvement with the CDR (hardline Hutu political party), the relationship between Radio Rwanda and RTLM, the accused's involvement in false 'communiqué', his being head of RTLM, his participation with the Interahamwe and his attitude towards Tutsis and the CDR relations with MRND (former presidential party). "Defence for the accused argued, however, that the prosecution's attempt to bring a new witness at this stage, and after the final list of witnesses had been determined by the court, was "a wilful violation of the Accused's right to a fair and expeditious trial", that the Prosecutor had been aware of this witness "long before" the start of trial and that she had failed to meet her disclosure obligations. The defence further argued that "the element of surprise resulting from the late disclosure will cause serious prejudice to the defence in the preparation of their case". However, the court found by a majority of two to one that there was "good cause", as required by Tribunal Rules, for allowing the late introduction of this witness, and that this would be in the interests of justice. It found that this would not cause undue prejudice to the defence, and quoted counsel for Nahimana as having admitted that: "Witness X is not a witness who we can argue, is talking about matters that take us by surprise". Trial Chamber One is composed of judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. In a separate and dissenting opinion, Judge Gunawardana found that there was no "good cause" to allow the late introduction of this witness, and said he could not agree with the decision of the other judges. Gunawardana says, among other things, that there is no indication that the witness was previously unwilling to testify, and that: "It appears that the decision by the Prosecution to include Witness X as a witness in this trial was taken only recently, not because of any reluctance on the part of the witness, but because of the present state of the Prosecution's case. "(ME0914E)