23.08.07 - ICTR/RENZAHO - A DEFENCE WITNESS FOR COLONEL RENZAHO FORCED TO FLEE RWANDA

Arusha, 23 August 2007 (FH) - A defence witness for the former Prefect Tharcisse Renzaho, currently on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), had to leave Rwanda where he lived because of threats made against him, it was learned from a source close to the case.   
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This information could not be confirmed by an official source. Questioned on the subject, the spokesperson of the tribunal affirmed that no contact on this issued had been made by the defence team.
 
The witnesses who testify before the ICTR are theoretically protected by the United Nations which guarantees their anonymity and ensures their safety.
 
The principal counsel for Renzaho, François Cantier of the Bar of Toulouse (France), has already on several occasions announced to the chamber that there are threats made on witnesses. An investigation was opened in June by the registrar's office of the tribunal on this subject and it was entrusted to a Rwandan lawyer.
 
According to the lawyer, some of the witnesses that he had contacted and who had agreed to testify then refused to come to the ICTR following threats.
 
This witness, the 23rd of the defence who is called MAY for safety reasons, had to escape Rwanda several weeks ago because he had received death threats.
 
He testified before the chamber at the beginning of the week. The majority of his testimony was made in closed session. At a brief public hearing, he indicated that he had heard at a roadblock Prefect Renzaho be called an "accomplice" of the RPF, the rebel movement then in war against the government.
 
Tharcisse Renzaho was prefect of Kigali and the last remaining civil authority in the capital after the entire government fled to the south of the country.
 
He is accused of genocide and murder as a crime against humanity. He has pled not guilty. His trial began on 8 January and should end next month.

PB/AT/MM
 
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