Arusha, September 9, 2003 (FH) – The defence counsel for Major Aloys Ntabakuze, on Tuesday threatened to resign if his demands to reschedule witnesses against his client were not met. Professor Peter Erlinder, Ntabakuze's lead counsel, told Trial Chamber One of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), that he had requested the tribunal to postpone the auditioning of witnesses against Ntabakuze since he is to leave Arusha today and will not be back until November, but to no avail.

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Aloys Ntabakuze is the former commander of Kanombe Para-commando battalion in Kigali. He is jointly on trial at the ICTR with three other senior army officers of the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR). They are the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence, 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. This new twist to the so-called “Military I” trial came during the second day of the testimony of a protected witness code-named “XAI”. He was a soldier and served under both Ntabakuze and Kabiligi. On Monday, he testified mainly against Ntabakuze. He is the first prosecution witness to do so. Prof. Erlinder had demanded that the witnesses be brought last so that he could prepare the case. He refused the prosecution's arguments that his co-counsel, André Tremblay could handle the case in his absence. “As much as Tremblay knows more about the case, I am the lead counsel”, declared the American professor. “I took my oath very seriously. I do not want to be a figurehead”. Erlinder took over the role of Ntabakuze's lead counsel on July 8, 2003 and has, before the latest incident, filed motions for his client to have a separate trial claiming that “…there is a big difference between Ntabakuze's liability and that of the other accused”. “In the name of fairness, the order of appearance of witnesses has to be changed”, he said. He added that he would be forced to take drastic steps if his motion was not granted. “Either the tribunal relieves me of my duties as lead counsel, or I will resign”, he threatened. The chamber is yet to rule on the latest demands by Prof. Erlinder. Earlier “XAI” had told the tribunal that in 1992, General Gratien Kabiligi, then a Lieutenant Colonel and military commander of Byumba region, had ordered that civilians suspected of being spies be killed on the spot. At that time, Rwanda government forces were involved in a civil war against the Rwandese Patriot Front (RPF, now in power in Kigali). XAI continued that Kabiligi had given the orders during a meeting he held with soldiers in Byumba. Kabiligi allegedly told the gathering that the RPF was sending spies disguised as civilians and told his troops to be vigilant. The witness went on to say that shortly after the order was given, he witnessed the death of three young men. “They were brought to the camp and ordered to dig their own graves”, claimed XAI. “They were made to go into the newly dug graves and clubbed to death”, he said. He added that during the 1994 genocide, Kabiligi was very influential and that he was the de-facto commander of troops in Kigali. “He was even credited by my fellow soldiers as having been the architect of our successful evacuation of Kigali” the witness said. The trial continues on Wednesday as the defence teams embark on cross examination of “XAI”, the fifteenth prosecution witness. Chamber One is presided over by Judge Erik Møse from Norway, assisted by Judges Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov of Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from FijiKN/CE/FH (ML'0909e)