Arusha, July 2, 2001 (FH) - The trial of three genocide suspects linked to "hate media" in Rwanda was Monday adjourned for two days, owing to lack of prosecution witnesses. Prosecutor Steven Rapp of the US told the court that the witness scheduled for Monday was not yet ready, and asked that proceedings be adjourned.

1 min 40Approximate reading time

Presiding judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa said the Chamber was "disappointed" that the prosecution had not managed to bring a witness in time, but said it also understood the prosecution's problems. Rapp told the court that the prosecution had lost contact with some witnesses because of insecurity in the northwest of Rwanda. Some witnesses would not testify, he said, because they had declined to do so or because they had not remained consistent with their initial statements to investigators. He stressed that witnesses could not be forced to appear against their will. Last week, one scheduled witness in this case refused to testify at the last minute, while another was said to have chronic mental problems, including loss of memory. The prosecution therefore decided, even after the witness's arrival in Arusha, not to put her on the stand. The trial groups three suspects linked to media which incited Hutus to kill Tutsis during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. They are former RTLM radio director Ferdinand Nahimana, former politician and RTLM board member Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and former editor of Kangura newspaper Hassan Ngeze. When the case opened last October 23rd, prosecution said they would bring 97 witnesses. However, it seems that many of them are no longer available. Witnesses expected to testify include Italo-Belgian former RTLM presenter Georges Ruggiu, whom the ICTR last year sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment after he pleaded guilty. Also expected is another ICTR convict who pleaded guilty, former militiaman Omar Serushago. Serushago was militia leader in the northwest Rwandan prefecture of Gisenyi, home area of Ngeze. The prosecution is also expected to call several people being held in Rwandan jails on genocide charges. It is not clear whether these will include former RTLM presenter Valérie Bemeriki, who is in Kigali prison. Defence lawyers for the accused have expressed concern about continual changes to the list of prosecution witnesses, saying that this is prejudicial to their clients. Nahimana's French lawyer Jean-Marie Biju-Duval also complained about late communication of witness statements to the defence, asking the court to impose sanctions. One of the sanctions, he argued, would be to have the statements thrown out. The case is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka De Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. AT/JC/MBR/FH (ME0702e)