Arusha, April 27, 2007 (FH) – Often denounced by the defense as a sign of the prosecution’s evidence, the frequent amendments to the indictments at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) are nevertheless inevitable in the pursuit of the truth even if they entail supplementary costs which the Registrar sometimes refuses to grant.
These texts on which the running of the trial is based are often modified from top to bottom, obligating the defense to shelve months or years of work of investigations conducted at the expense of the Tribunal. Since the start of the trials in 1997, there have been at least 40 amendments to indictments, according to a quick count made by an authorized source.
The ICTR can, after an examination of the evidence, withdraw an indictment count, or, at the course of further investigation, add a count, explained the spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor, Timothy Gallimore.
Friday during the day, Father Hormisdas Nsengimana, one of three Catholic priests detained by the ICTR entered a new plea after the amendment of his indictment. The man of the cloth, specifically accused of having personally killed a Tutsi colleague and stabbing to death six Tutsi women, entered a new plea of not-guilty.
“I regret that this has come at the last moment and that this has complicated the defense’s work. The prosecutor has the right to modify the indictment but on the condition that this does not break the equality of arm,” the French principal counsel, Emmanuel Altit, told the Hirondelle Agency. During the hearing, Mr. Altit complained of budgetary restrictions imposed on the defense by the Tribunal’s administration because the list of prosecution witnesses changed considerably. “We have been disarmed today compared to the prosecution,” the lawyer declared, highlighting his team’s difficulty to lead new investigations because of the amended indictment.
According to the Tribunal’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, “the Prosecutor can, without prior authorization, modify the indictment at any time without approval.” “Subsequently and initial the initial appearance of the defendant before the Trial Chamber, it cannot be done without the judge’s authorization or, in exceptional circumstances, with the authorization of a judge designated by the president,” the text follows.
The same text stipulates that “When the indictment includes new counts and the defendant has already appeared before the Trial Chamber, a new appearance should be held as soon as possible to permit the defendant to plead guilty or not guilty to the new counts for which he is accused.” “An extension of 30 days is granted to the defendant to allow him to respond to the new counts for which he is accused, and if there is place, the date of the trial can be delayed to give the defense necessary time for preparation,” adds the rule.
Certain indictments are also modified during trial. This was the case in the first trial of the ICTR, former mayor Jean-Paul Akayasu, who was accused of rape in June 1997, six weeks after the start of his trial while the prosecution’s case was almost finished. Despite numerous protests, this addition, carried out under pressure from American feminist groups according to numerous sources, was accepted by the Chamber. Jean-Paul Akayesu was sentenced to life in prison and his appeal was rejected.
Amendments to indictments can consist of facts or supplementary counts but also in the withdrawal of certain allegations for lack of evidence in support, such as in the case of the disappearance of witnesses. Numerous modifications have resulted from breaks in trials, after which the Prosecutor has renounced his strategy of exhaustive indictments permitting the presentation of evidence still in his possession.
© Hirondelle News Agency