Arusha, 11 April (FH) - The defence case in the trial of three former politicians which was to begin this week before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was deferred once again, because of the unavailability of the witnesses.  

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Initially scheduled for 18 March, the testimony of the defence witnesses was thereafter re-scheduled for 7 April to make it possible for the lawyers to better prepare.

On Monday morning, the defence team of Edouard Karemera, explained why the witnesses had the trouble to adapt to the schedule of the chamber.

The first witnesses and the opening statement of the main counsel, Dior Diagne, are planned for next week.

The defendants in this trial are Mathieu Ngirumpatse, former president of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), the party of former President Juvenal Habyarimana, Edouard Karemera, the vice-president, and Joseph Nzirorera, the secretary-general.

They were authorized to call their witnesses as of 14 April, starting with those of Karemera.

The chamber, however, heard a preview from Jean Baptist Butera, sub-prefect affected to Kigali in 1994, who was called by Nzirorera.

Weakened by illness, he testified by videoconference from Brussels, where he resides.

The court devoted the remainder of time to the testimony of three prosecution witnesses re-called to supplement their initial testimonies.

One of them, the protected witness code named "BTH", stated to have been forced to wrongfully accused Nzirorera. Prisoner in Rwanda during his preceding testimonies before the ICTR in 2005 and 2006, the witness fled the country soon after his release. His cross-examination will continue Monday. Afterwards, he should reconsider his testimonies in two other cases.

The trial of the three former politicians was the only one on the schedule for this week after the Easter holidays. This week coincided with the commemoration of the 14th anniversary of the genocide at the ICTR and the world. In Rwanda, President Kagame made his traditional speech before the Nyamata memorial.

Next Monday at the ICTR, two other cases, also at the defence stage, will resume. They are the Butare case, which involves six defendants originating from this region located in the south of the country, and Government II, which involves four former ministers.

The ICTR also published this week the legal calendar for April. It notably announces that on 28 April the trial of Callixte Kalimanzira will open, former cabinet director at the ministry of the interior.

Seven people are currently detained in Arusha while waiting for the beginning of their trials. Four of them are the subjects of transfer requests to Rwanda, to which they are vigorously opposed. The judges have not yet decided.

The court welcomed this week the American Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues, Clint Williamson. He discussed with its president, Judge Dennis Byron, the prosecutor, Hassan Jallow, and the registrar, Adama Dieng. Their discussions related, according to him, to the completion strategy of the tribunal, the search for the last fugitives and the heritage of the tribunal. After Arusha, Clint Williamson was to go to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi.


© Hirondelle News Agency