Arusha, 3 January 2008 (FH) - An investigator of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Leonidas Nshogoza, has been detained in Rwanda since June under the charge of having tried to pressure a witness and having trivialized the genocide.

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Nshogoza, a Rwandan who works for the defence team of Father Emmanuel Rukundo, after having worked in other trials, was arrested on 16 June in Gitarama. He appeared 19 November before the court of Gasabo where the prosecutor requested 10 years in prison for the alleged crimes. He was then granted bail, the Rwandan court waiting for precisions from the ICTR.

After having sent an investigator on location, the ICTR registry, responsible for the management of the defence teams, did not, apparently, make any particular steps in spite of the repeated requests by the association of defence counsels (ADAD) and Rukundo's lawyers, Aicha Conde and Allison Turner, hierarchical superiors of Nshogoza.

As they arrived at the end of their case, both lawyers asked the chamber to intervene; making the point that for lack of an investigator, they had not had the fair means to do their work. To date, the chamber has not answered. It asked the parties to file their final briefs and to give their closing arguments on 26 May.

Fault of being heard in its multiple reminders of the immunity which the ICTR employees benefit from in Rwanda, the association of defence counsels (ADAD), at the end of November, issued an "urgent call to the international community". "This case before a Rwandan court on facts implying only the authority of the ICTR and the performance of the duty of the ICTR amounts to an attack against the jurisdiction of the ICTR and its authority", it said.

The ADAD asked the ICTR to remind that "whoever contributes to the defence of a defendant before the ICTR must benefit from the rules of protection instituted to the benefit of the witnesses and a functional immunity of jurisdiction". This opinion, according to semi-official sources, is divided by the legal services of the United Nations in New York.

Since the tribunal seems to walk on eggshells. It had also opened an investigation into the possible pressures on a witness, it indicted this witness, obtained a confession and convicted him to 9 months in prison in a surprisingly fast procedure. However, during the judgment, this witness, kept under anonymity, accused Nshogoza of having proposed a large sum to him to change his testimony during of his appeal testimony. The implicated lawyers were not even questioned.

The relations between Rwanda and the ICTR have never been easy. An interruption of the collaboration between Kigali and Arusha, even delayed the work of the tribunal for almost a year. A year before the end of its mandate, the ICTR seems to retreat before an assertion of its jurisdiction and the immunity of its personnel, two principles which constitute the basis of its existence.


© Hirondelle News Agency