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Arusha, 3 May 2007 (FH) – Wednesday morning, a Danish Judge, Vagn Joensen, took an oath before the President of the International Criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the Norwegian Judge Erik Mose, in the presence of the Senegal Chief Registrar, Adama Dieng, we learn from an official source.

Judge Joensen, who takes the place of the Swedish Karin Hôkborg, was a lawyer, a law professor, a prosecutor and a judge in his country. He was a member of several expert committees of the Council of Europe and an international judge for the Mitrova district in Kosovo. In the first instance, the ICTR counts nine permanent judges and nine ad litem judges. The Appeals Chamber, shared with the ICTY, counts seven judges.

As a non-permanent judge (ad litem), the magistrate will sit in the trial of the ex-leaders of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), postponed sine die for 4 months after the withdrawal of one of the judges. The Ghanaian Judge Emile Francis Short announced his withdrawal of the case last January on health grounds.

Rejecting the request of a new trial filed by the ex-President of the party, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, and the ex-General Secretary, Joseph Nzirorera, the Tribunal decided to continue the trial with a substitute judge. Ngirumpatse and Nzirorera are tried with the former vice-president of the MRND, Edouard Karemera who had consented to the continuance of the trial.

According to the rules of the ICTR, the MRND trial will start again only when the new judge declares to have perfect knowledge of the file. He will have to watch the video recordings as well as all exhibits of the parties admitted in the proceedings which started in September 2005. 600 hours of recording are already available as well as 8000 pages of transcripts that he has to read. Before the withdrawal of Judge Short, in January, 13 of the around 100 announced witnesses had been heard.

Through a subtle request, Mr. Peter Robinson, the American lawyer of Nzirorera, gave advice to the new judge, appealing to him to familiarize himself carefully with this file which is seen as one of the most complex files before the ICTR. Accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, the three leaders of the MRND have pled not guilty.

The ICTR which has to end the trials in first instance before 31 December 2008 has already tried 33 persons; 27 others are currently tried, 9 wait for attending before the judges. Those who could not be tried will be transferred toward national tribunals, among them Rwandan ones.