1 min 59Approximate reading time

Arusha, February 2 2007 (FH) - The prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has closed his case in the trial of Siméon Nshamihigo, a former magistrate accused of genocide related crimes in the south-west of the country.   His trial opened on September 25 2006. After twenty-four witnesses had been heard, the prosecution trial attorney, Alphonse Van (Ivory Coast), has announced the conclusion of the presentation of the evidence by the prosecution.   Siméon Nshamihigo has been described in about twenty « different factual situations », according to his lawyers, who are preparing to contradict the prosecution witnesses.   Siméon Nshamihigo is defended by two Canadian lawyers : Mr. Denis Turcotte and Mr. Henry Benoît.   On Thursday, the parties held a « status conference» in order to schedule the hearings to come. The date of the beginning of the defence case is expected soon.     The defence counsels have already announced their intention to present at least two witnesses for every factual situation thus making the number of witnesses jump up to about forty.   Siméon Nshamihigo, 47, was arrested in Tanzania on May 19 2001, as he worked as an investigator within the defence team of an accused before the ICTR. He has pleaded not guilty on all counts.   In addition to Nshamihigo’s case, there were four other trials on the ICTR’s schedule this week: the « Butare » trial (south) which involves six accused, the joint trial of four ex-ministers of the interim government in place between April and July 1994, and the trial of the former prefect of Kigali city, Col. Tharcisse Renzaho.   In the first two, the defence teams have been presenting their witnesses. In Renzaho’s case, it has been the prosecution.   The witnesses heard in Butare have testified in favor of the ex-prefect Alphonse Nteziryayo, whom the chamber has listed third. Most of proceedings have taken place behind closed doors.   In the case of the ministers, the court has heard witnesses in favor of Casimir Bizimungu, Minister of Health in 1994 after all those in favor of the ex Minister of Trade, Justin Mugenzi, had appeared.   The Butare trial opened in June 2001, the second one in November 2003.   Renzaho’s trial started more recently, on January 8 2007.   Everything went smoothly in all three cases. On the opposite, the ICTR is concerned about the continuation of another trial, that of three leaders of the Rwandan former presidential party.   This week, the accused Joseph Nzirorera, created a stir when he asked that his case be transferred to a European national court.   The ex-secretary general of the Mouvement Républicain National pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRND) has filed his request after the withdrawal of one of the judges in this case, Emile Francis Short (Ghana) for health reasons.   The president of the ICTR has to decide if the proceedings will continue after a new judge has been appointed or if the trial has to start afresh before a different chamber.   MG/AT © Hirondelle News Agency