Arusha, 1 April 2008 (FH) - The eagerly awaited proceedings on transfers to Kigali of defendants before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will open 24 April, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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The first hearing will involve former businessman 73-year-old Yussuf Munyakazi, one of the five accused whom the Prosecutor was requesting to be tried in Rwandan courts.

The suspect was alleged to have directed notorious Interahamwe militia to commit massacres of ethnic Tutsis in his native region of Cyangugu, south-western Rwanda. He has pleaded not guilty.

The chamber will hear the prosecutor and the defence.

The Rwandan government, Bar of Kigali, New-York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association will appear in the case as the "Friends of the Court".

Whatever the outcome, observers believe that the decision of the chamber will inevitably be followed by an appeal. The confirmation or the invalidation of the transfers, vital for the "completion strategy" of the tribunal, will only be known three months before the scheduled end of the first instance trials in Arusha. The motion was filed last September.

The other defendants targeted by transfer requests are Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana; former businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga; the former mayor Jean-Baptist Gatete; and the former inspector of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Fulgence Kayishema. The latter is still at large.

On 7 April, three former top politicians of the then ruling party, MRND, on trial since September 2005 are expected to begin their defence. They are Mathieu Ngirumpatse, Edouard Karemera and Joseph Nzirorera, respectively president, vice-president and secretary-general. The three men have been in custody for ten years. They have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The trial is expected to continue beyond 31 December 2008, date planned for the end of all first instance trials.

On 14 April, the proceedings will resume in three group trials already at the defence stage. They are the Butare, Government II and Military II trials.

Butare involves six defendants originating from the south of the country, including the only woman detained by the ICTR, the former Minister for Family and Women's Development Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. The trial started in June 2001.

In Government II, four former ministers are involved and in Military II. four officers are involved, including two generals. Government II has been in progress since November 2003 and Military II since September 2004.

The tribunal also plans a visit to Rwanda within the framework of the trial of Simon Bikindi, a renowned musician accused of having incited the genocide through his songs.

It will take place from 14 to April 18.

The judges, until now, have paid six visits in connection with genocide trials to Rwanda.


© Hirondelle News Agency