Arusha, July 18, 2003 (FH) The trial of four senior officers of the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) currently going on at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), has considerably gained pace since it resumed mid-June. The June 16 to July 18 session proved a marathon phase for the prosecution in a newly reconstituted chamber, where a total of nine witnesses testified, including two people condemned by the ICTR.

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This new pace injected into what is known as “Military I” trial is a clear contrast from the first two sessions of September and November 2002 where only two prosecution witnesses, including an expert witness, testified. The trial groups together the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, the former head of military operations in the Rwandan army, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, the former military commander of Gisenyi (north-west Rwanda) region Lieutenant-ColonelAnatole Nsengiyumva, and Major Aloys Ntabakuze who used to be the commander of the Para-commando battalion based at Kanombe (Kigali). All four have pleaded not guilty to various charges related to genocide and war crimes. Most of the nine witnesses who testified in this session incriminated Nsengiyumva for massacres committed in Gisenyi during the genocide in 1994. On some occasions, the accused allegedly acted in league with Bagosora, but there was nothing or very few allusions to either Ntabakuze or Kabiligi. Roland Amoussouga, the ICTR spokesman, singled out Thursday during a press briefing the significant pace of the trial as opposed to the slow progress of the past since it began April 2, 2002. “Considering the charges brought against the accused, the rhythm that has been shown in this trial is of capital importance” pointed out Amoussouga. The same sentiment is shared by members of the defence who in the past had been accused of engaging in interminable legal wrangles with the prosecution. “The proceedings have been marked by a speed that might see the proceedings coming to a close sooner than expected”, said Kabiligi's Franco-Togolese lawyer, Jean Degli, on behalf of his colleagues. The prosecutor on the other hand surprised everyone Wednesday when she announced that she intended to wind down her case before Christmas 2003, saying that she would only limit herself to “the most essential witnesses”. The trial which observers single out as being the most important case brought before the ICTR had been estimated to take at least two years. Before the adjournement, the presiding judge of Trial Chamber One, Judge Erik Møse from Norway, announced that the next session would resume September 1 up to October 30 and then resume again November 3 to December 17, 2003. The prosecution intends to call 32 witnesses during the September session. Judge Møse is assisted in chamber one by Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov of Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. KN/GA/AT/FH (ML'0718F)