Arusha, October 1, 2003 (FH) – The trial of six people accused of genocide in the so-called Butare trial will continue from the point it left off last March, so ruled the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The majority of the chamber rejected a motion filed by five defence teams that sought for the trial to restart from scratch because of the non-re-election of Judge Winston Churchill Mantazima Maqutu from Lesotho.

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The defence counsels had contested a decision to continue the trial made by the two remaining judges of Trial Chamber two of the ICTR. William Hussein Sekule from Tanzania and Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar ruled in favour of a continuation “in the interests of justice”. A clause introduced in the tribunal's regulations last May, allows for the continuation of a trial in case one of the judges is not re-elected. The previous regulations compelled a judge to finish any trial before leaving. In their motion, the defence lawyers were of the view that Sekule and Ramaroson had ignored the fact that the continuation of a trial was subject to approval of the accused. Of the six accused, only Sylvain Nsabimana, the former prefect of Butare, gave the green light to continue. The Appeals Chamber concluded the judges Sekule and Ramaroson were qualified to decide on the continuation. According to the chamber, the two judges were right in asserting that their decision was made in the interests of justice. The majority of the judges also added that going ahead with the trial was not prejudicial to the accused. The Australian judge, David hunt, gave a dissenting opinion. Judge Hunt singled out the fact that the contested decision rendered by the judges gave more weight to factors other than the right to a fair trial adding that this was a fundamental right of the accused. He continued that both Sekule and Ramaroson had instead taken into consideration the speedy evolution of the trial, the interests of the witnesses and victims, and reducing the financial costs of a retrial. Judge hunt considers that whatever the case, the interests of justice are not served by denying the accused a fair trial. Judge Hunt also argued that it was indispensable that all judges in the trial chamber should be given an opportunity to listen to all the witnesses. 23 prosecution witnesses have already testified ever since the trial opened on June 12, 2001. The prosecutor intends to call 83 witnesses. Sylvain Nsabimana is jointly accused with the former minister of gender, Pauline Nyiramasuhukoher son Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, the former prefet Alphonse Nteziryayo, and two mayors: Joseph Kanyabashi and Elie Ndayambaje. The date for the resumption of the trial has not yet been announced. KN/AT/CE/FH (BT'1001e)