Arusha, April 11, 2002 (FH) - The association of defence lawyers based at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha has pledged to "fight for their (lawyers) rights," and at the same time dismissed allegations of witness harassment, reports the independent news agency Hirondelle. In a press conference on Wednesday, officials of the association (L'Association des Avocats de la Defense) also known as ADAD criticised what they what they termed "harassment of the defence teams".

2 min 14Approximate reading time

They also announced the election of new ADAD officials and stated that they had made new resolutions to "strengthen the rights of the defence". Lawyers Jean Degli of Togo and France, Kenyan Kennedy Ogetto and Canadian André Tremblay said harassment of defence teams included "arbitrary arrests" which attack the rights of the defence and threaten to destabilise defence teams. According to the lawyers, defence teams also have had to put up with "deplorable working conditions". The lawyers say some of their team members have not received payment for work done for up to seven months. Defence teams are asking that their rights be respected and that lead counsel be informed before any arrests of their team members. "They should be presented with evidence for wrong doing before arrest," said Ogetto, who is the newly elected President of ADAD. Ogetto said the association's representatives had already held discussions on a number of issues with the ICTR Registrar Adama Dieng, but declined to give any details. He said the lawyers had held negotiations on matters affecting them, "including the complex issue of investigators. " Two former defence investigators have been arrested by the ICTR, and charged with genocide. The first, Simeon Nshamihigo, was arrested in May within the Tribunal premises while the second, Joseph Nzabirinda alias Biroto, made his initial appearance before the Tribunal last month, also on genocide charges. The new ADAD officials are: Kenyan Kennedy Ogetto (President), Canadian Nicole Bergevin (Vice-President), Jean Degli of Togo/France (Secretary-General), Raphael Constant of Martinique/France (Deputy Secretary-General), Rety Hamuli of the Democratic Republic of Congo/France (Treasurer), Cameroonian Josette Kadji (Deputy Treasurer), Canadian André Tremblay (Information Advisor), Cameroonian Marie-Louise Mbida (Administration Advisor) and Canadian Michel Boyer (Legal Affairs Advisor). There are also some honorary officials. Degli said the association has more than 40 members so far. Cross-examination not harassmentThe defence lawyers also dismissed allegations of harassment of prosecution witnesses during cross-questioning. Last January two associations of Rwandan genocide survivors IBUKA and AVEGA, whose members form the majority of prosecution witnesses, cut links with the Tribunal, citing amongst other reasons, harassment of witnesses by certain members of defence teams. But the new Secretary-General of the lawyer's association, Jean Degli, stressed that witnesses who come before the Tribunal should expect to be cross-questioned. "Cross-examination is bound to be done," and, he added, it shall be done thoroughly as long as all rules of procedure were followed. He was categorical that defence teams would not just "stare" at witnesses passively without cross-questioning those who had come to all the way to Arusha to give evidence. Last week ICTR's Trial Chamber Two decided to strike off ten witnesses from the prosecution list in the so-called Butare Trial, after they had refused to appear to give evidence at the ICTR, in line with the call by the two genocide survivors associations. The Butare Trial is the biggest before the ICTR, involving six individuals. It has since been adjourned. Similarly, the trial of former Mukingo mayor Juvenal Kajelijeli before the same Trial Chamber was adjourned on Wednesday after two prosecution witnesses failed to come to testify. SW/JA/FH (ICTR-0410e)