Arusha, 16 May 2008 (FH) - The protected witness code named "GFA" was still on the run since his mysterious disappearance last week from a safe house in Arusha, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) spokesman, Roland Amoussouga. The witness disappeared just few hours before he was to re-testify his confession to false testimony before the UN Court.

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He said that joint security efforts by the Tanzanian police and the tribunal were underway. "We have confidence in the Tanzanian security services .We are hopeful we'll locate the person," the UN Tribunal's spokesman told reporters on Tuesday. The travel documents are in the hands of the tribunal.

According to Amoussouga, the possible motive for the disappearance could be finance as the witness had demanded $400 be remitted to his family in Rwanda if he was to return back. "It is not the policy of the tribunal to advance money to any witness," he stressed.

In another development the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Chamber has ordered the Registrar to appoint an independent Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) to investigate the alleged false testimony of a protected witness "BTH" in another trial, who also happens to be the same "GFA".

The Chamber has also ordered to lift the confidential status of the matter and re-file as the documents would not disclose identity of the protected witness.

BTH testified as a prosecution witness in June 2006 and was recalled in April, 2008. His April testimony contradicted his prior testimony on a number of issues, including alleged involvement of former National Republican Movement for Democracy (MRND) Secretary General Joseph Nzirorera in the events in the Mukingo Commune, where thousands of ethnic Tutsi refugees were killed during the April-July 1994 mass slaughter.

The witness also raised a number of allegations with regard to the testimony of other prosecution witnesses, claiming that he and others had given false evidence as a result of pressure which had been brought to bear on them by the Rwandan government.

The other accused in the joint trial are: MRND President Mathieu Ngirumpatse and his Vice-President Edouard Karemera. All three have pleaded not guilty.

BTH has testified in several other trials, including in the on-going joint trial of four former Rwandan ministers, known as "Government II", under the code name "GFA". The ministers are: Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Prosper Mugiraneza (Civil Service), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs). All have pleaded not guilty.

One of the defendant in the trial, Mugenzi has filed a motion, seeking the judges in Chamber III presided by Khalida Khan, to authorise Tanzanian authorities to arrest the witness under his real name and surrender him to the tribunal so that he can be brought before the Trial Chamber.Alternatively, Mugenzi, through his lead Counsel Benjamin Gumpert, has asked the Chamber to charge the witness for the contempt of court. The Chamber has yet to make a decision on the application dated 14 May.

Recently , GFA contacted Bicamumpaka's defence team and admitted that he had lied in his statement so as to get released from prison in Rwanda, where he was facing 1994 genocide charges The Chamber had authorized the defence team to meet GFA in the presence of a member of the prosecution team in a meeting which took place in Kampala, Uganda.

This month marks one year since Justice Dennis Byron from Saint Kitts and Nevis assumed the post of the President of ICTR, highest position in the UN tribunal. In an exclusive interview with Hirondelle Agency, Justice Byron, cautioned that 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.

In addition, the decisions on referrals to domestic jurisdictions of various accused may have an impact on the current projections, he said. The UN Court is trying the key suspects of the 1994 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.

Meanwhile, The trial of three former top leaders of the National Republican Movement for Democracy (MRND), ex-presidential party, was Wednesday adjourned to 30 June.

At the time of adjournment, the defence of Edouard Karemera, former Vice President of MRND, was presenting their witnesses. Eight witnesses have testified in the session.

According to the defendant's lead Counsel Dior Diagne, approximately 65 witnesses are expected to appear for his client. The prosecution presented 28 witnesses, of which 26 were prisoners detained in Rwanda.

The last witness, a Belgian doctor known only by code "TZL" to protect his safety, could not testify because he was victim of a robbery in a hotel room he was staying shortly before his testimony. He will be re-called during the next session. .

On Wednesday, Jean-Paul Akayesu, the first person convicted by ICTR , testified for the defence of Edouard Karemera and denied the existence of a criminal enterprise to which the defendants would have been involved.

Convicted in first instance on 2 October 1998, then in Appeal on 1 June 2001for life, Akayesu was Mayor of Taba commune, former prefecture of Gitarama, central Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

Another highlight of the week was the testimony by Bongwa Leoncie, wife of the genocide acquitted Andre Ntagerura, for defense of Prosper Mugiraneza, former Rwandan minister for Civil Service, who is accused of 1994 genocide and crimes against humanity alongside three other former ministers--, Casimir Bizimungu(Health); Justin Mugenzi (Commerce); and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs). All four of them have pleaded not guilty.

Ntagerura, who was former Minister for Transport and Communications in the interim government during the genocide, was released on February 25, 2004 and his acquittal was upheld by the Appeals Chamber on February 8, 2006.

Led by Mugiraneza's lead defense Counsel, Tom Moran from the United States, Mrs Ntagerura said she was well acquainted with Mugiraneza and his family and lived together in exile.

As Mrs Ntagerura was testifying, her husband set at the public gallery patiently listening to the proceedings until she concluded. Ntagerura has yet to get a host country.

The case, which is before Trial Chamber III is presided by Judge Khalida Khan of Pakistan, continues next week. The other bench judges are: Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Francis Short (Ghana).


© Hirondelle News Agency