Arusha, 21 April 2008 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) within the framework of its efforts to accelerate the trial of the three top former leaders of the former presidential party (MRND) will enter Monday next week, after two weeks of delay, the defence phase of the case, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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According to the Court schedule released on Friday, the former Vice-President of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), Edouard Karemera, will be the first to call his witnesses until 30 May, followed by the former president of the party, Mathieu Ngirumpatse from 16 to 18 July.

The defence was to open its case at the resumption of the trial a fortnight ago, but the lawyers stated difficulties in getting witnesses to come to testify.

"After the official holidays, the trial will continue from 18 August to 9 October, then from 27 October to 11 December", the schedule notes.

The order does not, however, schedule a date for the defence of the third defendant, the former Secretary-General of the MRND, Joseph Nzirorera. All three have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

This leads to observers to presume that the defence case may continue past the end of the year; theoretically the end of the first instance trials. The UN Security Council has directed that all first instance trials to end by December, 2008.

In addition, the chamber has decided that the prosecutor can not seek during the cross-examination against the defendants, except if it results from the main questioning. However, the prosecutor will have a time of cross-examination equivalent to the time of the main questioning.

The trial of MRND politicians, which is referred as "Karemera Trial", started in September 2005. The first proceedings had to be cancelled after more than a year of trial. The prosecution rested its case in December 2007. The trial is presided by Dennis Byron, a judge from Saint-Kitts and Nevis, who is also president of the ICTR.


© Hirondelle News Agency