Arusha, April 03, 2002 (FH) - Ten would be witnesses for the prosecution at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) have indicated that they are no longer "willing to co-operate with the Tribunal" and will not be testifying". The decision comes in the wake of a highly publicised controversial court hearing late last year, in which ICTR judges appeared to be laughing as a rape victim testified.

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Genocide survivors' organisations in Rwanda called for their members to cut co-operation with the Tribunal. All ten witnesses were due to testify in trial Chamber Two of the ICTR in the "Butare trial" which groups six people accused of genocide crimes in Butare southern Rwanda. The controversial incident took place in the same trial Chamber. "It is probably related to that (decision by genocide survivors' organisations to severe co-operation with the tribunal)", said ICTR spokesperson, Kingsley Moghalu, of the decision by witnesses not to co-operate with the Tribunal. Moghalu could not confirm whether or not there are similar cases of witnesses for other trials at the Tribunal refusing to co-operate with the ICTR. Genocide survivor's umbrella organisation IBUKA and AVEGA (organisation for women genocide survivors) suspended co-operation with the ICTR in January. They later "relaxed" the suspension following an agreement between the ICTR and the Rwandan government to set up a joint commission to investigate the allegations of mistreatment of witnesses at the ICTR and, according to the Rwandan authorities, allegations that genocide suspects are working at the Tribunal. The commission was due to start its investigation on April 1, 2002, but has not started, as both parties are in disagreement over its mandate. According to a court decision deleting the witnesses from the prosecutor's witness list, some of the witnesses simply refused to co-operate or even to meet ICTR officials, whereas others were sick or were recovering from sickness, but were nevertheless unwilling to co-operate with the ICTR or to testify in Tanzania. Trial Chamber Two of the ICTR, composed of judges William Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Winston Maqutu of Lesotho and Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar, denied the prosecutor's motion requesting additional time to contact the witnesses and "attempt to persuade them to testify before the Tribunal". The chamber noted that it was in the interest of justice that the defence be given full witness statements in due time. Witness statements for protected witnesses, such as the ten in question, can only be disclosed to the defence after the witnesses have confirmed their participation in the trial. "The message behind the decision of the judges is that the tribunal will not be blackmailed by anyone", said Moghalu. GG/JA/FH (BT-0403e)