Arusha, October 21, 2003 (FH) – The trial of genocide suspect and former mayor of Rusumo commune, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi has been adjourned on Tuesday to November at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) after four defence witnesses testified. NG2 testified mainly in open session while the other three namely, NG4, RDR and MQ1 testified entirely in closed session on Tuesday.

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NG4 testified on the same lines as former witnesses, stating that Gacumbitsi was not present at Nyarubuye Parish on the day it was attacked. After the last testimony of the day, presiding judge Andrésia Vaz from Senegal proposed that the trial be adjourned to the third of November while prosecuting counsel Richard Karegeysa of Uganda proposed the tenth. A status conference will be held at a later stage to clarify the actual date. The trial was adjourned because of the absence of one of the three judges, Judge Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. He has been away since the beginning of last week due to « family reasons ». Article 15 bis of the Rules of Evidence and Procedure authorizes two out of three judges to continue sitting in a trial but only during a period not exceeding five trial days. Tuesday was the fourth day Judge Vaz and Russian judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov have sat alone. On Tuesday morning, the absence of Judge Reddy led to debates between the prosecution and the defence regarding the count of days. On Monday, the trial was supposed to resume for the fourth day in the absence of judge Reddy, but judge Vaz was busy the whole morning, holding a status conference in another case. Mr Karegeysa proposed the trial be adjourned to Tuesday to allow two full working days. On Tuesday, defense counsel Kouengoua raised an objection to the chamber stating that, “Monday should also have been counted as a trial day because the trial chamber held a ‘hearing' in the presence of the accused and all parties including witnesses”. The chamber did not rule in the debate and proceeded to hear the testimonies of one of the four witnesses present in Arusha. Eighteen witnesses have testified in favour of the accused. The defence intends to call two more factual witnesses and three expert witnesses. Gacumbitsi will testify last. The former mayor is charged with five counts, which include genocide, or in the alternative complicity in genocide, extermination, murder and rape as crimes against humanity in relation with massacres of Tutsis perpetrated in several locations in his commune during the 1994 genocide. He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. SV/CE/FH (GA1021e)