2 min 7Approximate reading time

Arusha, March 9, 2007 (FH) – After the withdrawal of their Ghanaian colleague Emile Francis Short, the two remaining judges, Dennis Byron (Saint Kitts and Nevis) and Gustave Kam (Burkina Fason) decided on the continuation of the trial of three former national directors of the former presidential party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), it was learned from a judicial source Friday. Tried for crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, the accused are the former president of the MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, the former vice-president, Edouard Karemera and the former general secretary of the party, Joseph Nzirorera. On January 19, while the Chamber had just heard 13 prosecution witnesses of the hundredth planned, Judge Short announced his withdrawal for health reasons. Conforming to the rules, the President of the Tribunal, Erik Mose, asked the accused if they consented or not, to this trial which started on September 19, 2005, continuing with a reserve judge. In their observations to President Mose, Nzirorera and Ngirumpatse declared not to consent to the continuation of the procedure. Karemara, for his part, consented to continue the trial with a reserve judge, as long as the judge could take his time to have a perfect knowledge of the file. “With regard to all the circumstances of this case, and in particular the fairness of the trial, of the rights of the accused to be judged in a short time and of the length of their provisional detention, the remaining judges unanimously consider a continuation of the trial will best serve the interest of justice,” they stated in a decision dated Wednesday. Ngirumpatse and Nzirorera maintained that a recommencement of their trial would permit a correction of numerous errors of laws committed, according to them, during the first part of the trial. For them, the prosecutor continuously violated his obligations to disclose evidence, admitted a great number of pieces of evidence relating to essential facts not stated in the indictment, called witnesses under pseudonyms without justification, presented false testimonies, etc. Judges Byron and Kam considered that this concerned questions on which the Chamber had pronounced, keeping in mind the rights of the accused. The former president and secretary general of the MRND also alleged that the trial would not finish in 2008, the date set by the Security Council for all cases at the Trial Chamber. They therefore asked as an alternative measure a transfer before a national court other than Rwanda. The remaining judges have decided that the trial could be completed between now and December 31, 2008 but that if this is not the case, “reasonable decisions will be taken in the interest of justice and taking into account the rights of the accused,” the decision indicated. Citing the referral of the indictment before a national court, they “noted that they do not have a right to make such a decision, because the President of the Tribunal has not submitted them to the Referral Chamber,” added the text. This trial, considered one of the most important at the ICTR, has so far encountered many difficulties. In May 2004, a first trial, which started in November 2003 with the same accused individuals and a political figure that was not a member of the MRND was cancelled after the President of the Chamber, Andresia Vaz, was obligated to withdraw due to an “appearance of partiality.” ER/PB/KD © Hirondelle News Agency