Arusha, November 17, 2003 (FH) – The last session of the trial of genocide suspect and former Mayor of Rusumo (Kibungo prefecture, Eastern Rwanda), Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, began on Monday at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with the testimony of the nineteenth defence witness. The trial was adjourned on October 21, 2003 after the testimony of the eighteenth defence witness code- named MQ1.

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The chief evidence of the nineteenth witness dubbed XW13 to keep her identity secret was taken entirely in closed session at the request of Gacumbitsi's co-counsel Ann Mbattang (Cameroon). She told the chamber she she would divulge the reasons for her request in closed session. Gacumbitsi, 56, is facing five counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and rape which were committed in different parts of his commune in1994. According to the prosecutor, the accused had led an attack against people who had taken refuge at Nyarubuye Church, killing thousands of Tutsis in the process. Earlier before the witness was summoned to testify, there was a debate between the prosecutor and Gacumbitsi's lead counsel over a motion filed by the defence team. The motion which was filed on Monday seeks to review a decision by the Trial Chamber disqualifying a former Rwandan Minister for Information, Pascal Ndengejeho from testifying as an expert witness. The Chamber on November 11th ruled that Ndegejeho could only testify as a factual witness. Gacumbitsi's lead counsel Kouengoua (Cameroon) asked the chamber in a written motion to reverse its decision. He told the chamber it has the power and right to review the decision, and pleaded for equity of procedure. The prosecutor, Richard Karegyesa (Uganda) argued that the chamber should rather go further and not allow Ndengejeho to testify at all. According to Karegyesa, the former minister of information took refuge at the French Embassy in Kigali from 8 to 12 April, 1994, before he was evacuated to Bujumbura, the capital city of neighbouring Burundi. "He doesn't know what happened in Rusumo", Karegyesa explained. "This witness only read articles in newspapers. I think everybody can do that", Karegyesa went on. He also explained that the trial chamber did not have the right to reverse its decision at this stage, and that only the appeals chamber could, once the judgement has been rendered. Basing himself on ICTR jurisprudence in case such as the media trial and Military I, counsel Kouengua ruled out the arguments developed by Karegyesa. The chamber will rule on the request. The trial continues on Tuesday with the evidence of the next defence witnesses. The trial is being heard by Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR, composed of Judge Andrésia Vas from Senegal (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. PJ/CE/FH (GA'1117e)