Arusha, 29 April, 2008 (FH) - Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was on Monday compelled to suspend testimony of a recalled prosecution's protected witness only known by code "GFA", pending his Registry counseling in the on-going joint trial of four former Rwandan ministers in the interim government during the 1994 genocide.

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Presiding Judge Khalida Khan issued the order following a heated debate between defense and prosecution over who should advise " GFA" over repercussions of his testimony in case it was proved that he lied the court under an oath.

The Judge directed that "GFA" be guided by the Registry and reminded of Rule 91 of the ICTR statute, which clearly stipulates sanctioning if proven that the witness gave false evidence before the UN Court.

Asked by the Judge if he understood the provision [Rule 91], the witness promptly responded: "In my mind everything is not fine because this is new information...I can't testify unless the legal provisions read out are explained to me in a simpler manner [legal jargons]"

The four ministers in the trial, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity, are: Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs). All have pleaded not guilty.

Bicamumpaka's lead Counsel, Michael Croteau, supported GFA's concern that he should be given a lawyer different from his team [which recalled the witness] to advise him accordingly. In ensuing debate, the co-counsel for Mugenzi, Jonathan Kirk, offered to assist the witness but strongly suggested that he could only do so in presence of the Prosecutor.

Paul Ng'arwa for the prosecution objected both the suggestions, asking the Chamber to refer the matter to the Registry. Earlier, the Chamber heard evidence from three protected defense witnesses.

A protected witness only known by code name "GAA" was sentenced to nine months in prison in December for contempt of the court.

He was the first witness to be sentenced for the offence, out of approximately 2, 000 witnesses who have already testified before the UN tribunal, which was established in November 1994 by the UN Security Council to try key suspects of the 1994 killings, which according to the UN estimates claimed lives of about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Witness "GAA" admitted that he was encouraged to make to a false testimony during the appeal trial, in 2005, of Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, the former minister for higher education, sentenced to life in prison.


© Hirondelle News Agency