14.01.08 - ICTR/KAREMERA - FORMER MRND PARTY LEADERS IN UPHILL TRIAL

Arusha, 14January 2008 (FH) - The prosecution's case in the trial of the officials of the former Rwandan ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), ended in a brutal manner in December after the chamber considered that it had heard enough.
1 min 30Approximate reading time

Since the beginning of the trial in September 2005, the prosecution had questioned 25 witnesses during 169 days of hearings.

The proceedings were especially marked by heated exchanges between the parties, each blaming the other. The number of motions undoubtedly reached a record.

The case is presided by the president of the tribunal, Judge Dennis Byron, assisted by Judges Gustave Kam and Vagn Joensen.

The three defendants are Mathieu Ngirumpatse, former president of the MRND, Edouard Karemera, former party vice-president, and Joseph Nzirorera, former secretary-general of the party.

They are accused of genocide and crimes against humanity but all three have pleaded not guilty. They were arrested in 1998.

The case will be among the last of a series of "key" trials before the tribunal. The UN Court has already tried key ministers, former media officials and soldiers.

The United Nations Security Council has set the deadline of completing first instance trials by 31 December 2008.

However, with just one year to completion, Judge Byron has already taken precautionary measure by notifying the UN that the trial of MRND officials may not be completed before end of the year and asked for consideration of some "special arrangements".

To accelerate things, the chamber decided on 25 October not to hear "usual" expert witnesses who, since the beginning of the tribunal, have informed the chambers on the context of the genocide.

The prosecutor had wished to call American Allison Des Forges, historian and human rights activists, French sociologist André Guichoua and Kenyan Binaifer Nowrojee, a specialist in issues of sexual violence.

The chamber, denying any concern related to the completion strategy, is not persuaded of "the need for allowing these expert testimonies at this
stage". The prosecutor appealed against the decision but without any success.

A few weeks earlier the chamber rejected another expert, the Rwandan lawyer Charles Ntampaka who had studied the constitutionality of the interim government.

These decisions caused a certain surprise; in particular for the prosecution, although no member of the office of the prosecutor agreed to admit about it openly with the Hirondelle Agency.

ER/PB/SC
© Hirondelle News Agency