Arusha, 30 October 2008 (FH) - Four witnesses called to testify in the trial of three leaders of the former presidential party are stuck for several weeks at the headquarters of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, following illness of one of the defendants, reports Hirondelle Agency.

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Mathieu Ngirumpatse (69), whose health has paralysed the trial since August, was during the 1994 genocide President of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND).

Identified by code names-- "ETB", "ETK", "RTM" and "XCU" to protect their identities-- the four witnesses came for the defence of the former MRND Vice-President, Edouard Karemera, the first defendant to call his witnesses, in the case where is also on trial the former Secretary-General of the party, Joseph Nzirorera. The trial is dubbed "Karemera Trial".

In an order delivered Wednesday, the Chamber noted the observations of the parties for the possibility of hearing these four witnesses in the absence of Mathieu Ngirumpatse.

The Chamber, in addition, ordered the parties to present their observations during the hearing which will be held next Monday.

The four protected witnesses had arrived in August but were not able to testify apparently because of Ngirumpatse's medical condition.

The Chamber noted that two of the witnesses indicated real difficulties as for their availability to return to testify before the Tribunal at a latter date.

The two others, continues the order, affirmed to fear for their safety, "which could involve difficulties as for the future of their testimony".

In an order delivered Tuesday, the judges stated clearly that they were considering separation of proceedings to resolve the situation and asked the parties to give their observations on the proposal.

A first trial in which the three defendants appeared with another person was cancelled by the Appeals Chamber in October 2004, following "the appearance of bias" of one of the judges then seized of the case.

The current trial began in September 2005.


© Hirondelle News Agency