Arusha, June 27, 2002 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday adjourned until October 24th, the trial grouping the largest number of genocide suspects in a joint case as problems of witness travel from Rwanda to Arusha continue to plague the Tribunal. The 'Butare Trial' involving six individuals accused of genocide crimes in Butare province south of Rwanda was adjourned for the seventh consecutive time, when the prosecution informed the court that expected witnesses had once again failed to leave Kigali for Arusha.

2 min 22Approximate reading time

The Butare trial groups former Minister for Family Affairs and Gender Issues Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, former Butare prefects Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo and former mayors of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi and Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje. On Wednesday, the proceedings were adjourned on the understanding that witnesses would arrive within the course of the day for the hearing on Thursday. But on resumption an official from the ICTR witness protection unit Canadian Paul Farrel told the court that owing to demonstrations (by associations of genocide survivors) in front of the ICTR office in Kigali, the witnesses were removed from Kigali to an area of safety. Two key associations of survivors in Rwanda namely IBUKA and AVEGA have cut links with the Tribunal and urged their members not to come to Arusha to testify before the ICTR. The call led to a temporary blockage in the Butare trial proceedings when witnesses stopped coming to Arusha. On Thursday, sources indicated that these associations were behind the protests in at the ICTR office in Kigali. The prosecution said that the witnesses were unable to travel to Arusha as scheduled. Prosecutor Jonathan Moses of New Zealand said that apart from efforts by the ICTR witness protection unit to have them travel to Arusha, the ICTR Registrar (Senegalese Adama Dieng) and the Prosecutor (Swiss Carla del Ponte) were in Rwanda and would attend a high level meeting with thecountry's President, Paul Kagame. The current 'witness crisis' started on June 10th, when the witness protection unit informed the Trial Chamber that new regulations introduced by the Rwanda government had prevented witnesses from travelling to Arusha to testify. The court heard that there were documents required from the witnesses which were difficult to obtain. An adjournment was granted and another on June 11th, then more on June 17th, 19th, 24th, 26th and then on Thursday. On June 19th, the Tribunal made an order to the Rwanda government to cooperate with the ICTR and to facilitate the travel of witnesses. The defence argued that the Rwanda government was acting in contempt of the Tribunal order. Nyiramasuhuko's lead counsel Canadian, Nicole Bergevin maintained that, "the court should condemn publicly the illegal behaviour of the Kigali government towards this Tribunal. "Nteziryayo's counsel Frederic Titinga Pacere of Burkina Faso said that what the government of Rwanda was doing does not live up to the expectations of the international community. He argued that what the survivor groups are saying reflects the position of the authorities in Rwanda. Pacere wanted the names of witnesses who have had their testimonies delayed struck off the list of the prosecution witnesses. Nsabimana's counsel Cameroonian Charles Tchakounte Patie stated that a lot of judicial time was going to waste and that the trial should be adjourned until the problem was solved. The Chamber said the trial would be adjourned to October 14th, and that the court reiterates its decision of June 19th. This trial is before ICTR's Trial Chamber Two, composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho. This Trial Chamber is also hearing the case of former Mukingo mayor Juvénal Kajelijeli and that of former Education Minister, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda. SW/JA/FH (BT-0627e)