Arusha, October 20, 2003 (FH) – The trial chamber which is hearing the trial of genocide suspect and former mayor of Rusumo commune, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, adjourned on Monday to Tuesday morning at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) due to the absence of one of the three judges. Judge Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji has been away since the beginning of last week due to « family reasons ».

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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. Presiding judge Andrésia Vaz from Senegal, and Russian judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov have already sat alone for three 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. At the end of the morning, when the two judges eventually arrived, the chamber still had a one and a half day margin to continue sitting, in application of article 15 bis. As four defence witnesses had arrived in Arusha over the weekend and were ready to testify, this margin was deemed too short, and the trial was adjourned to Tuesday morning. The chamber will then have two full days to hear the four witnesses. Fourteen witnesses have already testified in favour of the accused. Apart from the four already in Arusha, the defence intends to call two more factual witnesses and three expert witnesses. Gacumbitsi is expected to testify last. Gacumbitsi, 56, 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 (GA1020e)