Arusha, January 28, 2004 (FH) - Trial Chamber Two of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), was on Wednesday afternoon compelled to adjourn the so-called “Butare trial” that groups together six genocide suspects. The adjournment was caused by the absence of most defence counsels and their clients.

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The defence counsels at the Tribunal have gone on strike since Wednesday morning. They announced the strike could last three days, if not more. Two other trials with four suspects each were also adjourned during the morning sessions on similar grounds. Five members of the ICTR Defence Counsel Executive Committee issued a communiqué on Tuesday stating that they would go on strike for three days for what they called “lack of respect of the rights of the defence” by the ICTR administration. Of the six accused persons in the Butare trial, only two were in attendance with their defence counsels; Sylvain Nsabimana, former Butare prefect and Joseph Kanyabashi, former Mayor of Ngoma commune. Prosecutor Jonathan Moses told the court that he was ready to proceed with the trial as scheduled by cross examining protected witness XX who testified on Tuesday mainly against the former militia leader, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali. Earlier Judge Sekule told the parties present that the President of the Tribunal, Judge Eric Mose, had met with representatives of the defence counsels the day before and assured them that the tribunal was ready to discuss with them, provided they called off their strike and went back to work. “Most of them have simply abandoned the proceedings,” he narrated. He then adjourned the session until Thursday afternoon. Other accused in this case include another former Butare prefect, Alphonse Nteziryayo, former Mayor of Muganza commune Elie Ndayambaje, and the former minister of Family and Women Affairs, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. The latter is also the mother of the accused, Arsene Shalom Ntahobali. Charges against them include genocide, crime against humanity, complicity to commit genocide and rape. They have denied the charges. Judge Sekule is assisted in Chamber Two by Judges Arlette Ramaroson from Madagascar and Salome Bossa of Uganda. NI/KN/CE/FH (BT''0128e)