04.09.08 - ICTR/SETAKO - SETAKO TRIAL OPENS WITH LONG TESTIMONIES

Arusha, 4 September 2008 (FH) - From the beginning, on 25 August, the trial of Lieutenant-Colonel Ephrem Setako, accused of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, the Chamber has heard, sometimes while complaining, very long testimonies of people convicted or prosecuted for their involvement in the 1994 genocide.
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In 9 days of hearings, only 3 witnesses, out of the 25 that were announced, have finished their testimony; and the last of them could be recalled to the stand, dependently of the decision of the judges on a pending defence motion.

At the opening of the trial, the representative of the office of the prosecutor, Ifeomi Ojemini-Okali, had clearly indicated that to establish the six counts of the indictment charged against this former high ranking official at the department of defence, it was going to present, among the witnesses, material authors of the genocide, "accomplices" of Setako, according to the proper term of this Nigerian lawyer.

But the current rhythm of the hearings has contrasted with the acquired celerity, for a few years, by the prosecution in the presentation of its case.

In the trial of the former Minister of Finance, Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, as an example, the 15 prosecution witnesses followed one another to the stand in a 12-day span of testimonies, in 2003.

The prosecutor theory was nevertheless "proven beyond a reasonable doubt", since the former minister was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison in first instance as well as in appeal.

The witnesses called to date in the Setako case have not truly targeted the role charged to the accused in the 1994 genocide.

The main defence counsel, Lennox Hinds, has complained on several occasions, asking the judges to give clear instructions to the opposing party which he reproached of wasting "the invaluable time" of the Chamber.

But behind this posted preoccupation with "judicial economy", the true concern of the American professor was to prevent Mrs. Okali from providing the foundations of her theory, necessary in this case, of a "joint criminal enterprise" between the defendant and other civilian or military officials.

Such as the former Mayor of Mukingo, Juvénal Kajejijeli, definitively convicted; the former secretary-general of the MRND, Joseph Nzirorera, who has not yet presented his defence case before the ICTR; and the former Chief of Staff of the army, General Augustin Bizimungu, also on trial before this the United Nations Tribunal.

It is there one of the key elements of the indictment. "Between January and April 1994, Colonel Ephrem Setako took part in regular meetings with influential people of the communes of Nkuli and Mukingo, including Joseph Nzirorera, Colonel (later General) Augustin Bizimungu, Juvénal Kajelijeli and various political leaders, businessmen and members of the local and regional government, to incite them to commit, to prepare and to plan the murder of Tutsis", alleges the prosecutor.

Mr. Hinds, entered in this case after having pleaded in vain the acquittal of Kajelijeli, tried Tuesday to exempt the judges from the hearing of long accounts in which the witnesses do not directly accuse his new client. He denounced an attempt to link Setako to crimes committed by others.

"Premature motion", replied Mrs. Okali, explaining why it is only at the end of the day that the judges will be able to evaluate this link.

The Chamber, presided by Norwegian Judge Erik Mose, did not want to get mix in the strategy of the office of the prosecutor but nonetheless advised it to limit itself to the pieces of evidence really necessary.

The trial continues at the same rhythm. Twenty five witnesses have been announced by the prosecution.

ER/PBMM/

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