Arusha, 4 April 2008 (FH) - Preparations are under way for resumption of the trials before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) next Monday following two weeks of Easter holidays. 

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The three top former party officials of the then ruling Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) during the 1994 genocide will resume their joint trial, with the defendants presenting their case.

The case, considered as one of the most important currently at the ICTR, started in September 2005. The prosecution case rested last December. The prosecution called 29 witnesses.

The defendants are the former president of MRND Mathieu Ngirumpatse, Edouard Karemera, vice-president of the party, and Joseph Nzirorera, secretary-general. Prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, they have pleaded not guilty and have been in custody for nearly 10 years.

The prosecutor has argued that the defendants had control over the Interahamwe militia, which was responsible for mass killings. The defendants are disputing it.

The trial, presided by Judge Denis Bryon, also ICTR president, is expected to continue beyond 31 December 2008, official completion date of the first instance trials.

The following week, the proceedings will resume in two other trials-- that of the Butare group and Government II.

Butare is the oldest case currently in progress at the ICTR. In June, it will enter its seventh year. It involves six defendants originating from southern Rwanda, including the only woman accused by the ICTR, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, former minister for the family and women's development.

Government II, for its part, involves four former ministers of the interim government in power during the 1994 genocide. Their trial started in November 2003.

In Butare as in Government II, it is the defence which is calling the witnesses.


© Hirondelle News Agency