Arusha, April 4, 2002 (FH) - The trial of four former senior military officers in Rwanda, which started on Tuesday will resume in September, before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The decision was made after a status conference behind closed doors, on Wednesday, between the judges of ICTR's Trial Chamber Three, the prosecution and defence teams in the so-called Military Trial.

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The Military trial groups genocide suspects, former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet) Théoneste Bagosora and three former senior commanders in the former Rwandan army: Anatole Nsengiyumva, Aloys Ntabakuze and Gratien Kabiligi. They have all denied genocide charges for crimes committed during the 1994 massacres in Rwanda. On Tuesday, the four accused refused to appear at the opening of their case, arguing that the prosecution had violated their rights. They are protesting delayed disclosure of witness statements. In a press conference by the defence teams on Tuesday, the lawyers argued that they had not received the list of witnesses the prosecution intended to call as well as fundamental documents. "There is no basis for making an opening statement," said the defence. The defence said they were unable to prepare for cross-examination of prosecution witnesses under the "prevailing conditions". The defence maintains that their clients are "not boycotting" the proceedings but "they cannot be party to an unfair trial. "The first prosecution witness scheduled to testify is American historian and human rights activist, Alison Des Forges. The defence is yet to receive the French version of her expert report. All defence teams had vigorously opposed the start of the trial on Tuesday saying the prosecution was not ready to proceed with witnesses. However, the court allowed prosecution to make its opening statement. This was followed by the status conference, to address the issues raised by the defence. The hearing is before ICTRs Trial Chamber Three composed of judges Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis, Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. SW/JA/FH (ML-0404e)