Arusha, November 8th, 2002 (FH) - The prosecution has placed a request with the chamber asking for a time limit in the cross examination of American historian and human rights activist, Alison Des Forges, an expert witness in the trial of four senior military officers of the Rwandan Armed Forces at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The ‘Military Trial’ comprises the former director of the cabinet at the Ministry of Defence, colonel Théoneste Bagosora; the former head of military operations for the army, brigadier general Gratien Kabiligi, former commandant of the military region of Gisenyi (western Rwanda); lieutenant colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva; along with the former commandant of the para-commando battalion of Kigali major Aloys Ntabakuze.

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They are principally accused of intent to commit genocide and war crimes. They have pleaded not guilty. The trial was suspended on 26 September when the defence for Kabiligi was about to start his cross examination of Des Forges. The expert had just spent a week being cross-questioned by Raphaël Constant, the lawyer for Bagosora. When the trial restarts on 18 November, the prosecution is calling for the expert witness to finish her testimony on 22 November, and failing that, the defence continue “by deposition”. The process involves putting written questions to a witness and receiveing answers in the same form. The defence teams of the other three accused would therefore have only five days for cross questioning. In support of his request, the prosecutor mentions “the principle of equality of arms”, arguing that the time given to the prosecution for its questioning should be the same as that allocated the defence for cross examination. In its request, the prosecution refers to the long legal discussions that characterised the court sessions before the expert witness began giving her evidence, the numerous defence objections as the witness was questioned and the time taken for cross questioning by Bagosora’s defence counsel. The accusation concludes that with this slow rhythm, “this trial cannot finish before the end of the mandate of the tribunal set for 2008”. Reactions from the judges during the cross-questioning by ConstantDuring the first cross questioning of Des Forges by defence lawyer Constant, the president of the chamber judge George Lloyd Williams had called the Martinique lawyer to order many times, asking him to take into account time factors. Mr Constant was lingering in effect a long time on questions concerning the Rwandan monarchy and the 1959 revolution. “You should keep in mind that three other lawyers are following you,” the judge warned him. After six days of cross questioning the chamber asked the lawyer to wrap up quickly, even though the defence clearly had not yet exhausted all its questions. Previously the chamber had observed that the debates were going “at a snail’s pace”. “‘We have been bogged down since the beginning,” Judge Williams had commented resignedly, suggesting that ”the burden of proof falls on the prosecutor “ and not the defence. Defence reacts to the prosecutor’s requestAll the defence teams have rejected the prosecutor’s request, arguing that if the ‘military trial’ is dragging slowly, “it is the prosecutor’s responsibility and not the defence”. According to the lawyers, it was the prosecution itself that asked for the cases to be joined together, meaning a joint trial of four co-accused. “They have to take the consequences,” emphasised the Canadian lawyer for Ntabakuze, André Tremblay, citing one of the articles of procedure: “when cases are joined, each one of the accused enjoys the same rights as he would have if judged separately. ”On the same subject, the French/Togolese lawyer for Kabiligi, Jean Yaovi Degli, asked the chamber to separate his client’s trial from the others. “The current joint procedure is seriously prejudicial to the rights of General Kabiligi,” he asserts, reproving the prosecution for wanting to continue with a “trial of ambush” and “to reduce to nearly nothing the right of the accused to defend himself normally. ”Tremblay emphases as well that; “it would be unfair for cross questioning to be done by deposition […] when the evidence had previously been given by live voice”. He points out how that contradicts the prosecutor’s own suggestion “who bases his request on the principle of equality of arms and parity. ”The defence recalls that it had, in vain, been opposed to the introduction of a multitude of documents in support of the expert witness report, because “the witness was not competent to introduce most of these documents”. “The defence was obliged to cross question the witness (to test her credibility)”, empathised Tremblay. The lawyers also condemn the fact that the prosecutor had chosen to cite an expert without having put the factual base into the dossier, which, according to them, considerably complicated the discussions. Therefore, the defence of Nsengiyumva describes the prosecution’s request as “an abuse of procedure”. ”The witness stood in court longer than expected because of the prosecutor’s bad planning,” state the Kenyan lawyers Kennedy Ogetto and Gershom O. Bw'Omanwa. They are astonished that the prosecutor was asking for a limitation on the rights of the accused after having completed his questioning, and described his intervention as “malicious”. They think that to suggest that the chamber should take measures that are not the same for each party “was close to insulting the Tribunal”. The judges will have to pronounce on this request when the trial restarts, which is seen as the most important trial that the ICTR has dealt with to date. The trial is being held before of the Third Chamber of the Tribunal, comprising Judge George Williams of St-Kitts and Nevis (presiding), Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia and Andrésie Vaz of Senegal. JA/GA/CE/FH (ML-1108E)