Arusha, September 5, 2003 (FH) – The lead defence counsel of the former commander of the Kanombe para-commando battalion in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, filed a motion on Friday for a separate trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is hearing the trial of four former senior army officers of the Rwandan army (ex-FAR). Ntabakuze's recently-appointed lead counsel, Professor Peter Erlinder of the USA, argued that a joint trial would create a “conflict of interests” with the other co-accused.

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Ntabakuze is being jointly tried in the so-called “Military I” with 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, Lt. Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva. The four officers have pleaded not guilty to counts of war crimes, conspiracy to commit genocide and crimes against humanity“There is no reason for a joinder of the indictment”, argued Prof. Erlinder, stressing that “there is a big difference between Ntabakuze's liability and that of the other accused”. The American lawyer pointed out that in light of the limited number of witnesses the prosecutor intended to call concerning his client, incriminating evidence was “very negligible”. Prof. Erlinder also demanded that further auditioning of witnesses be put on hold so as to allow him to become more familiar with his client's case. “It is very important in terms of ethics. A lawyer must study all strategies and avenues of defence when he first meets his client”, pitched in Bagosora's counsel, Raphael Constant from Martinique, coming to his colleague's aid. The motion will be deliberated upon by Trial Chamber One of the ICTR. The chamber is composed ofJudge Erik Møse from Norway (presiding) assisted by Judges Serguei Aleckseievich and Jai Ram Reddy from Russia and Fiji respectively. The motion for disjoinder of the indictment was filed at the end of the 14th prosecution witness's testimony. The witness, code-named “DW” to protect her identity, had alleged on Thursday that soldiers had killed Tutsis and thrown them into pit latrines during the 1994 genocide. The alleged events took place in Kigali Rural province. The presiding judge had suggested to the defence counsel to shorten their cross-examination of the witness because she had “not mentioned any of the accused”. The trial continues on Monday. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML'0905e)