Arusha, July 18, 2003 (FH) - The prosecution in the on going trial of four senior military officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR), Thursday caused a stir when she announced that she intended to finish presenting evidence by the end of the year. Considered as one of the most important case tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), It had been estimated by observers that the trial would take at least two years.

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The head of the prosecution team, Barbara Mulvaney from the USA made this statement during the presentation of evidence by her 11th prosecution witness code-named “OQ”, to keep his identity secret. OQ began his testimony Wednesday but was not able to continue the next day because he fell sick. The number of the proposed witnesses to be called by the prosecution has changed from time to time. When the trial re-opened April 2, 2002, a total of 250 had been reached, a drastic reduction from the more than 800. Before the trial was moved to chamber one from trial chamber three, a final figure of 121 prosecution witnesses had been agreed upon. While announcing the new changes, the prosecutor had stated that they would limit themselves to “the most essential witnesses”. The definitive list of prosecution witnesses has not yet been announced. The so-called “Military I” groups together the former military commander of Gisenyi (north-west Rwanda) region Lieutenant-Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, the former director of cabinet in the ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, Major Aloys Ntabakuze who used to be the commander of the Para-commando battalion based at Kanombe (Kigali) and the former head of military operations in the Rwandan army, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi. The prosecution maintains that they were the pillars in the planning and carrying out the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that claimed over One million Tutsis and Hutu members of the opposition between April and July 1994. All have pleaded not guilty. Defence teams demand extension of time of disclosureAll defence counsels requested that the time limit to divulge prosecution witness statements be extended. Chamber three had on December 5, 2002 set the limit of disclosure of evidence to 35 days prior to the testimony of each witness. The defence counsels have been pressuring the chamber since June to review that decision. They argue that the rules of procedure and evidence states that the disclosure should be made “no later than 60 days before the date set for trial”. However, the rules also state that “upon good cause”, the chamber, upon demand by both parties could modify the arrangement. Kabiligi's franco-Togolese lawyer, Jean Degli maintained that “what had been an exception has turned into law”, pointing out the hurdles met by the defence in investigating and preparing cross-examination of prosecution witnesses within that short time. “It is a drastic reduction in the rights of the accused” declared Degli. Other defence counsel also argued in the same line and challenged the prosecutor to show proof whether any of the accused had had threatened a prosecution witness. Barbara Mulvaney had stated that she had received reports that some prosecution witnesses had received threats and that they were investigating their origins and nature. All parties then retired for a status conference to discuss the calendar and other pending matters. The current session is supposed to close Friday and has tentatively been set to resume September 1, 2003. “Military one I”, is being conducted in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of Judge Erik Møse of Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov of Russia and Jai Ram Reddy from Fiji. KN/GA/AT/FH (ML'0718e)