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Arusha, February 2 2007 (FH) – While last December, the president of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Erik Mose, had reasserted before the UN Security Council his determination to succeed in having all trials finished by the end of 2008, the tribunal is now faced with a new problem.   Judge Emile Francis (Ghana) has just withdrawn for health reasons from one of the most prominent cases at the ICTR which concerns three leaders of the former presidential party a Kigali court dissolved in 2001. Now, even hardcore optimists are starting to doubt the possibility of the United Nations Tribunal to close this trial in 2008.   The next step is up to Mose. His options are either to appoint a new judge to fill in for Mr. Short and to resume the proceedings, or to order the beginning of a new trial with an entirely recomposed chamber. Before he makes his decision, he has been consulting both parties.   So far, the ICTR has communicated the standpoint of two of the three defendants: the ex-vice president of the party, Edouard Karemera – a former lawyer – and the party’s former secretary general, Joseph Nzirorera – a civil engineer.   In a motion filed last Monday, Karemera’s defence counsels declare themselves « favorable to the continuation of the trial with a substitute judge » to join Judge Dennis Byron (Saint-Kitts & Nevis) and Judge Gustave Kam (Burkina Faso). However, they have a twofold demand. First, the ICTR president has to assure them that the deadline of 2008 does not serve as a pretense to push the team for a more expeditious defence and second, that the new judge will be « perfectly familiar » with the case before the proceedings resume.   Since the trial began in September 2005, the prosecutor has succeeded in presenting only thirteen of the fifty or so witnesses on his list. Mr. Dior Mbaye (Senegal), Karemera’s lead counsel, states that considering the slow pace of the trial it «cannot be concluded in 2008 ».   Mr. Peter Robinson, Nzirorera’s lead counsel, shares his colleague’s opinion. However, the American lawyer has a more creative solution when it comes to settle the problem caused by the withdrawal of Judge Short. He is asking for the transfer of his client to an appropriate national jurisdiction other than Rwanda.   Mr. Robinson is perfectly aware that it is prosecution, and not defence teams, which the Rules of the ICTR entitle to request transfers to national jurisdictions.   Therefore, on January 24, he had attempted to convince the head of the prosecution, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, to file the request himself.   Following Jallow’s negative answer, Mr. Robinson turned to President Mose last Monday and asked him to « designate a trail chamber to consider the possible referral of this case to a national jurisdiction». In his motion, Mr. Robinson calls on the « principle of equality of arms » and argues that the accused too should be allowed to ask for the transfer of his case.   The reaction of the third accused, the ex-president of the party, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, was not yet available.   This is yet another bump in the road for this trial.   A previous procedure opened in November 2003 and regrouping the same defendants plus a former minister had aborted in May 2004 after the president of the chamber, Andrésia Vaz, had been compelled to withdraw due to her suspected «bias ».   For a certain period of time, the Senegalese judge had been housing in her own home a member of the prosecution team working on the case. After a long judicial struggle, the opening of two new trials had been ordered: the three ex-leaders of the presidential partyon the one hand, and the ex-Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, André Rwamakuba, on the other. The latter was acquitted last September; he is now free to attend the trial of his former co-accused.   ER/AT/MG  © Hirondelle News Agency