Arusha, 21 August 2008 (FH) - The Registry of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has been given ten days beginning last Monday to appoint a defence counsel for Rwandan lawyer, Leonidas Nshogoza, who has been in detention in Arusha for about six months accused of the contempt of court.

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The Chamber in its ruling has reminded the Registry of the accused's right to legal assistance, adding that any delay in the assignment of a lawyer for Nshogoza, a member of the Bar of Kigali "risks compromising the accused's fair trial rights".

The judges noted that the Registry did not carry out an earlier order of 24 July, which instructed for appointment of a defence counsel without delay.

The new order points out, moreover, that approximately five months have passed since the accused surrendered himself to the tribunal to be tried.

The judges are also concerned over the delay because the opening of accused's trial was scheduled for 29 September.

Nshogoza was a defence investigator in the trial of former Military Chaplain, Emmanuel Rukundo, which was currently in deliberation before the UN Court. The accused had pleaded not guilty during his initial appearance last February. The prosecutor alleges that Nshogoza knowingly and deliberately hindered the course of justice and tried to temper with evidence by meeting without authorization prosecution's protected witnesses and making them sign false statements.

The indictment claims that the accused also promised to the witnesses' bribes in exchange for false testimonies in the trial of former Minister for Higher Education, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, who has been convicted to life imprisonment.

During his surrender, Nshogoza claimed before the press that he had come "so that justice is rendered [in his case]". In June 2007, the accused was arrested by Rwandan authorities over similar claims, before being released on bail five months later.

According to ICTR regulations, a person convicted of contempt of the tribunal can face a maximum prison sentence of five years or a fine of 10, 000 American dollars or both.

A first witness-known only by code name GAA-- was found guilty of such an infringement and was sentenced to nine months in prison in December 2007.


© Hirondelle News Agency