Arusha, 1 August 2007 (FH)-A profound disagreement about the schedule took place Wednesday between the chamber and the parties in the trial of three leaders of the former ruling party at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The Prosecutor and the defence rejected the proposal of the judges that would have seen all the prosecution witnesses heard from here to the end of November or the beginning of December, describing it as arbitrary.

The chamber had estimated that the Prosecutor should appreciably reduce the list of its remaining witnesses for the reason that several of them will testify on facts already evoked by others or who were the subject of a judicial notice.

The trial, which began on 19 September 2005, has only seen the Prosecutor call only 19 witnesses out of the planned 59.

The chamber presided by Dennis Byron, also President of the ICTR, expressed the wish that at least 15 witnesses in connection with sexual violence be cast aside and the testimony of expert witnesses "contracted".

The judges indicated that acting in sort would reduce the time of the proceedings by approximately a third.

The chamber also proposed that the defence witnesses appear starting 4 February 2008. "The defence case should last 180 days", declared the presiding judge.

The head of the prosecution team, Don Webster, categorically rejected the proposal made by the chamber, indicating that the prosecution cannot conclude its case this year.

"The challenge with which we are confronted is that the length of the questioning eclipsed the control of the chamber. The Prosecutor should not pay for these mistakes ", he said.

Don Webster, whose remarks were at moments described as offensive by the judges, declared that "the chamber is transferring the burden, due to the fact that it did not plan ahead, on the shoulders of the Prosecutor".

The point of view of the Prosecutor, contrary to habit, was supported by all the defence teams.

Peter Robinson, who represents the former secretary-general of the Mouvement Républicain National pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRND), Joseph Nzirorera, stated that his client opposes the strategy of imposing deadlines.

"I believe that it is necessary that the decisions of the Chamber not be based on arbitrary timeframes but on the quality of the evidence which is presented to it", he argued.

For his part, Diagne Dior, who is defending Edouard Karemera, former vice-president of the MRND, indicated: "it is necessary that we give a new rhythm to this trial but it is necessary that the end of the trial not be rushed".

For Dior, the Prosecutor should not feel "frustrated" for not having been able to present the totality of his case. "He must not say that the trial ended in mystery, that there was at the end no trial".

Evoking the end of the ICTR mandate in December 2008, Dior challenged the president by saying to him "that in spite of this enormous pressure which is on your shoulders", it was inappropriate to act rashly.

Chantal Hounkpatin, the lead counsel for the president of the MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, for her part indicated that "December 2008 should not make so that this trial, which is an important trial, ends with the impression that it was a rout and that we no longer control the stakes".

The Chamber will soon issue a scheduling order. The proceedings were adjourned until 1 October.

© Hirondelle News Agency