Arusha, 20 March 2008 (FH) - Two major trials were suspended Wednesday evening until 14 April, reports Hirondelle News Agency.

1 min 13Approximate reading time

They are "Butare Trial", which involves six defendants and "Government II", which involves four top officials. These were the only trials that were in progress this week.

Started in June 2001, Butare is the oldest among those which are still in progress at the ICTR. It also beats the record of the number of defendants. It is the fifth defendant, the former mayor of Ngoma, Joseph Kanyabashi, who is presenting his defence case.

Prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, Kanyabashi has pleaded not guilty. The defence witnesses have described the accused as a mayor concerned with the safety of his citizens but he was powerless against the armed attackers.

Kanyabashi is defended by the Canadian lawyers Michel Marchand and Simone Santerre.

Kanyabashi's co-defendants are the former Minister for Family and Women's Development Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the only woman detained by the ICTR; Arsene Shalom Ntahobali, son of the minister, an alleged militia leader; former Governor Sylvain Nsabimana; and former Mayor of Muganza, Elie Ndayambaje.

Only Ndayambaje has yet to call his defence witnesses.

In the Government II trial, which has been in progress since November 2003, it is the fourth defendant, former Minister for Civil Service Prosper Mugiraneza, who is presenting his defence case. The defendants were all members of the interim government in power during the 1994 genocide.

Mugiraneza has been presenting his defence witnesses since mid-February. Already 24 witnesses have testified so far.

He notably defends that belonging to the interim government does not constitute a crime by itself.

Mugiraneza is on trial alongside former Minister for Health Casimir Bizimungu, Trade Minister Justin Mugenzi and Foreign Affairs Minister, Jerome Bicamumpaka.

In the joint trial, the prosecutor is trying to prove that the defendants participated in a criminal enterprise. The defense argues that the theory was false and unfounded.


©Hirondelle News Agency