Arusha,15 May,2008(FH)-At least two trials involving nine defendants are expected to spill over to next year and will not be able to meet the UN Security Council's deadline of December,2008, cautions the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Justice Dennis Byron.

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In addition, the decisions on referrals to domestic jurisdictions of various accused may have an impact on the current projections, he said in an exclusive interview with Hirondelle Agency to mark his one year in office since assuming the highest post of the UN Court, trying the key suspects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

"Should the requests for referrals be denied and the Tribunal be allocated the responsibility to try these cases, there is a possibility that such additional cases will not be disposed of by December 2008," he warned.

The five cases targeted for transfers to Kigali involves former trader Yusuf Munyakazi, former Commander of Ngoma Camp Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana, businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga, former Mayor Jean Baptist Gatete and former Inspector of Judicial Police, Fulgence Kayishema. The latter is still at large. The motion for Munyakazi's transfer was heard last month, but the rest are yet to be scheduled.

Started in June 2001, Butare Trial, the largest and longest trial involving six defendants, including the only woman, former Minister for Family and Women's Development Pauline Nyiramasuhuko and her son an alleged ex-militia leader Arsene Ntahobali and the Trial of three top party officials of MRND, then the ruling party, are expected to spill over to 2009.

The other co-defendants in the Butare trial are the former mayors of Ngoma and Muganza, Joseph Kanyabashi and Elie Ndayambaje respectively, former Governor Sylvain Nsabimana;and Butare Governor ,Alphonse Nteziryayo

The MRND officials' case, known as Karemera Trial, involves MRND President Mathieu Ngirumpatse, Vice President Edouard Karemera and Secretary General Joseph Nzirorera.

"In the Karemera Trial in January 2007, one of the judges withdrew due to health reasons, resulting in a temporary stop to the proceedings," explained Justice Byron, however ,saying that the trial re-started with a substitute judge some seven months later.

He also said that cases for the six remaining detainees are ready for trial, adding "some of them will commence in the first half of 2008 depending on Trial Chamber and courtroom capacity."

On the exodus of professional staff, the ICTR president said that the tribunal has been working very close with the Office of Human Resources in New York in order to identify non financial incentives aimed at retaining staff

Asked what he wished to achieve as the ICTR president before the tribunal shuts down, Justice Byron responded: "To ensure that the credibility and fairness of its trial process is maintained at all times and that essential fair trial rights are not prejudiced so that no reasonable onlooker could regard the process or the end results of our proceeding as unfair."

He further added; "It is my desire and profound hope that the ICTR, at the end of its mandate, leaves behind a vivid legacy which will be made of fundamental and lasting contributions to true justice . Justice is an essential element of peace and reconciliation. There will be no lasting peace if there is no credible international justice perspective that unites on a higher level, the peoples of Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region, who have suffered from the heinous crimes committed in 1994."

Since its creation in November 1994, the ICTR has tried 35 people while 28 others are currently on trial. Eleven trials are on-going of which four have closed and are awaiting judgments.

The UN Security Council has directed the tribunal must finish its first instance trials by 31 December 2008.

The UN has estimated that about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in the April-July slaughter


© Hirondelle News Agency