Arusha, October 30, 2003 (FH) – The beginning of the trial of four former high-ranking Rwandan officials has been postponed to November 26th at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Roland Amoussouga, the spokesman of the Tribunal, informed the press on Thursday. The trial, branded “Government I”, was scheduled to begin on November 3.

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Amoussouga announced it was postponed to allow the defense to carry out the required investigations before the prosecution witnesses are heard. The rules of procedure and evidence oblige the prosecution to disclose witness statements 21 days before the trial session, which they have not done in this case. This trial, whose beginning has been expected for some time, groups together three senior members of former president Juvenal Habyarimana's party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), and a former member of the Republican Democratic Movement (MDR), which was accused of “divisionism” by Rwandan authorities. The MRND was dissolved in 2001 by the Rwandan judicial authorities on the grounds that it had played a key role in the planning and execution of the genocide. The accused are Mathieu Ngirumpatse, who was the former president of MRND as well as minister of justice in the so-called “multi-party” government formed in December 1991; Edouard Karemera, former minister of internal affairs in the interim government as well as vice-president of MRND; Joseph Nzirorera, the former secretary general of MRND, minister ofpublic works in 1989 and later to become the speaker of the interim national assembly, and André Rwamakuba, former minister of primary and secondary education in the interim government and a member of the MDR. The four accused face seven counts: 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 made their initial appearance at the tribunal on 7th of April, 1999 and pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The prosecution alleges that the accused conspired among themselves and with others, from 1990 to 1994, to work out a plan to exterminate the Tutsi population and members of the opposition in Kigali, Butare, Gisenyi, Gitarama and Cyangugu prefectures, and Kibuye region. This trial is one of the most important ones at the Tribunal, given the position of the accused. It will be in chamber three presided over by Senegalese Judge and ICTR Vice-President, Andrésia Vaz, assisted by ad litem judges Flavia Lattanzi of Italia and Florence Rita Arrey of Cameroon. SV/CE/FH (GovI1030e)