04.02.08 - ICTR/WITNESS - WITNESS CRITICIZES ICTR PROTECTION SYSTEM

Arusha, 4 February 2008 (FH) - A defence witness Monday criticized protection system of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), claiming that he did not need any protection measure.
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Abubacar Nduwayezu, a Rwandan national, made the remarks at the start of his testimony for the defence of the former Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister, Jerome Bicamumpaka, who is accused of genocide and crimes against humanity during the 1994 genocide.

Mr Bicamumpaka has pleaded not guilty.

The witness had already testified as a protected witness in the same case last year but alleged before the UN Court that his status was leaked out.

"On my return to Rwanda, everyone knew that I had come to testify here (before ICTR)", he claimed and therefore he has decided in the trial to divulge his identity.

Sensitive witnesses before the ICTR are normally "protected", referred only with code names and are hidden from the public by an opaque curtain-only their voices reach outside the court.

In October 2002, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) stated that this anonymity of the witnesses only protects the witnesses from the media and the public and not from other actors in the trial.

The organization proposed to abandon anonymity as a protection measure.

Before the semi-traditional Rwandan Gacaca courts, charged with trying the majority of alleged authors of the genocide, the witnesses testify openly--before the judges and the defendants.

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© Agence Hirondelle