Arusha, June 19, 2002 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda's (ICTR) trial Chamber Two on Wednesday made an order that the Rwandan government should facilitate the travel of witnesses coming to testify before the Tribunal. The Chamber is hearing the 'Butare trial' which has suffered from delays because witnesses have not appeared.

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Presiding Judge Tanzanian William Hussein Sekule, said that new travel procedures introduced by Rwanda recently had directly affected the hearings leading to inability of the court to proceed. He noted that the statute of the Tribunal was binding upon states to cooperate with it and also to act with all due diligence. "In the light of the foregoing, this chamber asks the Rwanda government to facilitate to allow the court to proceed," Judge Sekule said. He instructed the Tribunal Registry to inform the Rwanda Government of the court order and of its intention to continue with proceedings on June 24, 2002. On Monday, the trial was again delayed due to lack of prosecution witnesses. 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. He had estimated that the witnesses would arrive on Wednesday but this was not the case. The Butare case groups six accused, the largest number of people in a joint trial before the Tribunal. They are the 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 Tuesday, Rwandan special envoy to the Tribunal Martin Ngoga said in press conference that his government was not blocking witnesses from travelling and that the new measures were an initiative to correct the indifference that the government had shown over the process of issuing travel documents to witnesses coming to Arusha. Ngoga said that what was being asked of the proposed witnesses were ordinary documents that every person is asked to produce when looking for a travel document. "There is no omission and there is no addition," said the envoy. He added that in this case it is the ICTR, which has to produce the papers because it is the one that locates the witnesses and that it would be easy to obtain the required documents. The Butare trial has had to be adjourned a number of times due to lack of witnesses. Two key groups of genocide survivors in Rwanda - IBUKA - an umbrella organisation for survivors' associations and AVEGA - an association of genocide widows - declared their withdrawal of cooperation with the Tribunal citing the 'harassment of witnesses' among other grievances. IBUKA recently reiterated its stand. Defence counsel for the accused have argued that the prosecution should close its case, saying that they cannot wait endlessly until Rwanda ultimately decides when the witnesses would travel. They questioned why the prosecution was "obsessed" with witnesses in Rwanda instead of looking for others elsewhere. They argued that the ICTR witness protection unit, which deals with the witnesses travel issues, was "giving empty hope, futile expectation. "Prosecutor Silvana Arbia maintained that the prosecution had not completed its case and that witnesses were willing to come and testify. She suggested that the Rwanda government answers directly to the court on the issue of witnesses' travel procedure. The court is anticipating a response on the progress of its order by Friday June 21, 2002. This trial is being heard by ICTR's Trial Chamber Two, composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho). Similar decisionsIn the meantime, another ICTR Trial Chamber on Wednesday afternoon made a similar ruling to that of Trial Chamber Two because of the lack of witnesses. Presiding Judge South African Navanethem Pillay made the ruling in the trial of former minister of information in the Rwandan interim government, Eliézer Niyitegeka. The trial, which opened on Monday will be adjourned after the testimony of the second prosecution witness known only as "GK" who is expected to complete giving evidence today. There are no more witnesses currently available as those expected from Rwanda were unable to travel. Judge Pillay asked the ICTR registry to transmit a copy of the court's decision to Rwandan authorities. Proceedings were adjourned until June 24, 2002. The Niyitegeka trial is being held before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. SW/JA/FH (BT-0619e)