Arusha, September 16, 2003 (FH) –The former commander of Kanombe para-commando battalion in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, Tuesday refused that the trial goes any further before his counsel returns. Ntabakuze is one of the four senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The trial was adjourned on Monday because Ntabakuze's co-counsel, André Tremblay from Canada, was reported ill. On Tuesday the tribunal was further informed that Tremblay's health had deteriorated. “It would be a dangerous precedent to continue without my counsel's presence”, argued Ntabakuze, adding that legal assistants were not qualified to represent him. The accused was reacting to a suggestion from the chamber that the trial continue hearing witness who did not incriminate Ntabakuze. Other defence counsels in the joint trial also opposed the move, arguing that “all witness concern all the accused since they all accused of conspiracy”. The presiding judge of Trial Chamber One, Erik Møse from Norway, ordered Ntabakuze's defence assistant to consult with Tremblay and get back to the chamber as soon as possible. André Tremblay has been conducting the defence on his own since September 9, following the absence of Ntabakuze's lead counsel, Professor Peter Erlinder, who had left for the USA. Prof. Erlinder had tried unsuccessfully to have the testimonies of all defence witness mentioning his client moved to November when he would be available. So far nothing has come of his threats to resign if his demands were not met. Tremblay on the other hand had pointed out that he had been put in a delicate situation and had warned the tribunal to be prepared for anything. Judge Mose ordered the registry to inform Prof. Erlinder on the state of his assistant's health “without delay”. Ntabakuze is jointly accused with the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence and considered by the prosecution as the “mastermind of the genocide”, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, and the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. All four have pleaded not guilty to charges of, among others, Genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Judge Erik Møse is assisted in Chamber One by Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov of Russia and Judge Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0916e)