Arusha, November 4, 2003 (FH) – Didier Skornocki, the defense counsel for former minister of internal affairs and first vice-president of the MRND, Edouard Karemera, has requested from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to resign on medical grounds, Hirondelle News Agency has learnt on Tuesday. Karemera is being tried together with three other former high-ranking officials in the so-called GOVERNMENT I Trial.

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His co-accused are Mathieu Ngirumpatse, who was the former president of MRND as well as minister of justice, the former secretary general of MRND, minister of public works and later to become the speaker of the interim national assembly, Joseph Nzirorera, and the former minister of primary and secondary education and a member of MDR, André Rwamakuba. Mr. Didier Skornicki (France) said in a telephone conversation with Hirondelle News Agency that he will need seven to eight months treatment for his illness and may return afterwards. He added that he will not leave until his client gets the lawyers he wants to defend him. Mr. Skornicki named the lawyers mentioned by Karemera to be Jean Pierre Fofe from the Democratic Republic of Congo who was the former co-counsel for ICTR suspect Samuel Imanishimwe, and Rene Martel from Canada who is co-counsel for genocide suspect Hassan Ngeze. Mr. Skornicki also said he would give the opening statement before he hands the case over to the new defence team. Skornicki will be the second defence counsel for Karemera to pull out. Karemera's first lawyer Emmanuel Leclerc of Belgium withdrew from the case just before the initial appearance. Mr. Leclerc explained in a letter of 7th April 1999 to the tribunal that "the events in Rwanda in 1994 are referred to by some as genocide and by others as massacres by both sides. As far as I am concerned, the only correct term is genocide”. Mr Karemera held a different opinion. The tribunal's spokesperson, Roland Amoussouga, acknowledged that Karemera's defence lawyer had written a letter indicating that he would like to resign for personal reasons, adding that the registrar will give his response soonest on the new defence team. Government I trial, which was set to begin on November 3rd, was adjourned to the 26th of November. The four accused are facing seven counts charging them with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and rape as crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva conventions and additional protocol II. They all plead not guilty to all the charges. The trial will be in trial chamber three presided over by Senegalese Judge and ICTR Vice-President, Andrésia Vaz, assisted by ad litem judges Flavia Lattanzi of Italia and Judge Florence Rita Arrey of Cameroon. SV/CE/FH (GovI1104e)