Arusha, April 2, 2002 (FH) - Absence of all the four accused delayed the start on Tuesday of the long-awaited trial of former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet) Théoneste Bagosora and three former military leaders, at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The so-called Military case groups genocide suspects Bagosora, Anatole Nsengiyumva, Aloys Ntabakuze and Gratien Kabiligi.

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None of the accused was present in the courtroom when the ICTR judges and the prosecution, including the Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte arrived for the commencement of the case. "Registry, I notice that the accused are not in court - any information?", asked presiding judge Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis. The court heard that all the accused had said they would not come to court and that they "will be represented by their counsel". But prosecutor Chile Eboe Osuji of Canada and Nigeria said "they should be brought here any way possible. That is quite reasonable. "The defence says the accused are protesting delayed disclosure of documents and statements of prosecution witnesses. They say will not be party to "an unfair trial. "Raphael Constant of Martinique/France represents Bagosora, Nsengiyumva is presented by Kenyans Kennedy Ogetto and Otachi Bw'Omanwa, Ntabakuze by Canadians Clemente Monterosso and Andre Tremblay, and Kabiligi by Jean Degli of Togo and France and Silvia Olympio of France. Defence counsels told the court that the accused "are not boycotting the trial" but that they do not want the commencement of the trial under the "prevailing conditions. " "If the accused person can get all the statements, they will come to court," said Bw'Omanwa. Bagosora is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity. Prosecution maintains that Bagosora, following the plane crash that killed former President Juvénal Habyarimana, assumed "de facto" control of military and political affairs in Rwanda. He was arrested in Cameroon on March 9 1996. Nsengiyumva, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Rwanda Armed Forces, is charged with direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. He was arrested in Cameroon on March 27th 1996. Ntabakuze, a former Major and Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion in the Rwandan Armed Forces, is jointly charged with Kabiligi, a former general in the General Staff of the Rwandan Armed Forces. They face charges on genocide, complicity in genocide, and crimes against humanity. Both were arrested in Kenya in 1997. The hearing is before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of judges Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis, Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. The court instructed the Registry to write to each of the accused and remind them that it was their right to attend the court proceedings and that it was in their interest and in the interest of justice that they should be present during the hearing: If they decide to boycott, the Chamber will proceed with the trial, said the presiding judge. SW/JA/FH (ML-0402e)