Arusha, June 24, 2002 (FH) - The biggest trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), grouping six persons accused of genocide in Butare (south of Rwanda), was on Monday adjourned for the fifth time, because of a lack of witnesses. The hearing was delayed and then adjourned last week, when the ICTR witness protection unit informed the court of difficulties in bringing witnesses from Rwanda to Arusha.

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The chief of the ICTR witness protection section Pakistani, Saleem Vahidy, said that the expected witnesses could not travel from Kigali to Arusha following measures introduced by the Rwandan immigration services. The court issued an order that the Rwanda government facilitate the travel of witnesses to the Tribunal. On Monday Vahidy said that he learnt only that morning, one of the requirements, described as the most difficult to fulfil had been dropped. The ICTR official, in response to questions by the defence counsel, explained that witnesses had been required to get a number of certificates in addition to verification of their identity cards. The Butare case groups former Minister for Family Affairs and Gender Issues Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, former Butareprefects Sylvain Nsabimana and Alphonse Nteziryayo and former mayors of Ngoma Joseph Kanyabashi and Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje. Commenting on the issue last week, Rwandan special envoy to the Tribunal Martin Ngoga stated that his government was not blocking witnesses from travelling and that the new measures were an initiative to correct the "indifference" that the government has had regarding the process of issuing travel documents to the witnesses coming to testify in Arusha. In his ruling on Monday, presiding Judge Tanzanian William Hussein Sekule said, "in the light of the observation by Vahidy the trial chamber decides toadjourn proceedings". He said that although the Chamber understood the concerns expressed by the counsel on both sides, the cause of justice mustremain clear and "we must remain focused. " He added that any opportunity that may enhance the cause of justice must be explored. Defence counsel expressed concern over the new rules introduced by the Rwanda government in relation to witness protection. They also speculated that maybe even more requirements would be asked of the witnesses, since the rules had been changed suddenly and without any notice. "When we notice this morning we're still not out of the woods, maybe another (rule) will be required next week," said Canadian, Michel Marchand lead counsel for Kanyabashi. Nyiramasuhuko's counsel Canadian, Nicole Bergevin said that by adjourning the proceedings "incurable prejudice" had been caused to her client. Other defence counsel asked for an indication as to when the situation would improve so that a definite trial date could be set. The defence also asked for awritten report on the requirements that the Rwandan government is asking the proposed witnesses. Prosecutor Silvana Arbia of Italy, said that there was some positive development according to Vahidy and that the trial would proceed soon. The court ruled that proceedings resume on Wednesday morning and that the witness protection unit keep all parties informed of any progress. This trial is before ICTR's Trial Chamber Two, composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho). SW/JA/FH (BT-0624f)