Arusha, October 16, 2003 (FH) – The defence counsel for genocide suspect and former mayor of Rusumo commune, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, on Thursday requested the trial chamber at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to allow him to drop three witnesses. 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.

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He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. In his motion to the chamber, lead counsel Kouengoua said that witnesses BK1, RDM and RDS will be dropped for the moment. Last week the court was informed that three other defence witnesses are still being traced after they were repatriated to Rwanda in a joint programme between the UNHCR and the Tanzanian government. The defence team said it would present between 20 and 23 witnesses in a case that is supposed to be closed by the end of this month. The defence began their case on October 6th. The prosecutor presented fifteen witnesses who testified within a period of one month starting July 28th, when the trial begun. The prosecution also dropped several witnesses from his list, which initially contained 24 names. Counsel Kouengoua made this announcement just before the thirteenth defence witness started testifying. The Gacumbitsi trial is one of the fastest being heard at the ICTR. It is before Trial Chamber Three, which is presided over by Senegalese judge and ICTR vice-president Andresia Vaz, assisted by judges Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji and Serguei Aleckseivich Egorov from Russia. SV/CE/FH (GA1610e)