Arusha, 12 February 2008 (FH) - The lawyers for Catholic Priest Hormisdas Nsengimana who is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), have requested that their Rwandan investigator suspected of having tried to intimidate witnesses be able to benefit from protection provided by the United Nations, it was reported Tuesday.

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"Nsengimana's defence requests that the chamber reaffirm the immunity which the investigator from the defence team will benefit and to reaffirm protection by the tribunal and the United Nations to him",
wrote Mes Emmanuel Altit (France) and David Hooper (United Kingdom) in their motion to the chamber. The name of the investigator was not immediately available.

Accused of crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity, the catholic priest who has pleaded not guilty, will begin his defence case on 2 June.

On 24 January, following allegations made against the investigator, the chamber ordered that the registry investigate his possible relationship with the prosecution witnesses in this trial.

"The fact that an investigation was ordered concerning the defence investigator contributes, wanted or not, in such a context, to reduce his options during his missions and to endanger him", stated the lawyers.

"It is appropriate that the chamber reaffirms the immunity of which he possesses, so that he can, under these difficult conditions, try to conclude his mission", adds the motion.

"As it has recently been reminded by the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, the investigators of the defence teams of the tribunal benefit from immunity", the motion continues, adding that In spite of this order from New York, the ICTR has always denied immunity for defence investigators that it does not consider as its employees even though it pays their salary.

Last Friday, a Rwandan investigator working in another defence team, Leonidas Nshogoza of the bar of Kigali, pleaded not guilty to four counts of contempt of court.

He is accused by the prosecution of procuring information from protected witnesses through bribery and interfering in the justice process.

Mr Nshogoza until his arrest, worked as an investigator in the defence team of Emmanuel Rukundo, a Catholic Priest on trial before the ICTR. The lawyer was arrested in June by Rwandan authorities, but about six months later was released on bail, pending details from the ICTR.

The presiding judge, Dennis Byron, has ordered the Registry to set a date for the trial.

© Hirondelle News Agency