Arusha, July 16, 2001 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has terminated the contracts of four ICTR defence investigators suspected of involvement in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. ICTR Registrar Adama Dieng of Senegal said in a statement on Monday that the move was in line with measures announced in June "to protect the integrity of the Tribunal's judicial process".

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The four sacked defence investigators are Augustin Basebya, who was working for the team of former Rwandan mayor Juvénal Kajelijeli; Augustin Karera, who was working on the case of former minister Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda; Aloys Ngandahimana, an investigator for former RTLM radio director Ferdinand Nahimana; and Thadée Kwitonda, who was on the team of former militia leader Arsène Shalom Ntahobali. According to the Registrar's statement, the contracts of the first three have expired and are not being renewed because they are on the Rwandan government's Category One list of top genocide suspects. However, Nahimana's French defence counsel Jean-Marie Biju-Duval said in response to earlier allegations about his investigator that his team member was not the same person as the one on Kigali's Category One list. Kwitonda's contract will expire on August 8th. But, says the Registrar's statement, "his contract has been suspended because he is currently under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for crimes allegedly committed during the 1994 genocide". "It is of the utmost importance," says Dieng, "to stress that, in making these decisions, the Registry of the International Tribunal makes no presumption of the guilt of these individuals for the crimes for which theyare suspected or accused. Thus the Tribunal stands ready to reconsider them for clearance for employment by any defence counsel in the Tribunal should they be cleared of the charges and suspicions against them in the Rwandan judicial system or in the International Tribunal. "All the investigators concerned are working on cases that are at trial, or about to go to trial shortly. In a letter read out in court last week, Kajelijeli's investigator Basebya said he refused to come to Arusha because he had been put on the Category One list, which he said was political. He claimed that the Kigali government was intimidating certain defence investigators. Rwanda's representative to the ICTR Martin Ngoga strongly denied the allegation. In May, the ICTR arrested one of its investigators, Siméon Nshamihigo, who was working under a false name. He had been working on the case of Samuel Imanishimwe, former commander of Cyangugu barracks in southwest Rwanda. Nshamihigo has been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. Following Nshamihigo's arrest, the Registry announced in June it had taken a number of measures to improve screening of defence investigators, and also to improve security at the UN Detention Facility (UNDF) in Arusha. Defence investigators are hired by defence counsels, but their recruitmentmust be approved by the Tribunal. Registrar Dieng took up his position in March. He replaced Agwu Okali of Nigeria who had been Registrar for four years and whose contract was not renewed. JC/FH (RE0716e)