Arusha, November 20, 2003 (FH) – The former Mayor of Rusumo (Kibungoprefecture, Eastern Rwanda), Sylvestre Gacumbitsi will on Friday defendhimself at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as thetwentieth and last defence witness in his trial. The trial began on July 28, 2003 and is so far the fastest in the history ofthe ICTR.

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Gacumbitsi, 56, is facing five counts of genocide, crimes against Humanityand rape, which were committed in different parts of his commune in1994. According to the ICTR's rules of procedure and evidence, accused persons maytestify on their own behalf, normally after all other defense witnesses. Gacumbitsi's testimony however comes earlier than planned after the trialchamber withdrew a former “expert” witness. Mr. Paschal Ndegejeho, who was a former minister for information had hisstatus changed to a factual witness. He requested 24 hours on Wednesday toconsult with other people. On Thursday he requested the trial chamber toprovide him more time to consult more people as to whether or not he shouldaccept to testify as a factual witness. The trial chamber did not grant himhis request. “The trial chamber is of the opinion that you do not intend to testify, wesuppose you are not willing to testify and we take note of this,” presidingjudge Andresia Vaz said. The lead defense counsel for Gacumbitsi, Mr. Kouengoua of Cameroonimmediately filed a motion citing rule 73 A which states that the defensecan be authorized to call another expert witness in order to obtain fairjustice. The trial chamber denied this motion on grounds that the defence team hashad time to choose and organize the 20 witnesses it presented, as opposed tothe 15 witnesses presented by the prosecution. Gacumbitsi will testify on Friday and next Monday. The chamber expects toclose the case by November 26. The trial is being heard by Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed ofjudges Vaz from Senegal, Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and JaiRam Reddy from Fiji. SV/CE/FH (Ga1120e)