05.12.08 - ICTR/TRIAL - ICTR PUSHES LAWYERS TO HURRY WRAP UP ARGUMENTS

Arusha, 5 December 2008 (FH) - The judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), pressed by a schedule which only leave them one more year to finish their trials, invited lawyers to hurry and present briefly their arguments.
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These restrictions raised a wave of protest in two important group trials where the proceedings have just ended. Contrary to the practices applied for the last 10 years, the parties had the volume of their arguments limited to 200 or 250 pages in Butare and Military II, and especially in time.

Until now, the parties had between 5 and 6 months to summarize their evidence and to present an interpretation of it. This "colossal" work, according to a lawyer, was presented on an average of 500 pages, often more. In the Military I trial, where the proceedings ended more than a year ago and whose verdict is about to be rendered, the arguments of the prosecutor were written on 1000 pages.

But times have obviously changed. Thursday, in the trial of Callixte Kalimanzira, which is advancing at great steps, the president of the Chamber, who also presides the Tribunal, even went as far as asking the defence to present its arguments on 25 pages. This request was immediately rejected. "We have priorities which are not obviously the same, your honour. For me, the first priority is the defence of Kalimanzira", answered Arthur Vercken.

"It is absurd", commented a lawyer on the Butare case. "After 8 years of proceedings how do you want us to limit ourselves to 200 pages?" he added. In a decision published Friday, some judges went even further, specifying the typestyle to be used as well as the margins and spaces between the lines.

The temporal restrictions are the most criticized. "It is long to make short", finely summarized Benoit Henry, the second lawyer of General Augustin Bizimungu. "If it was less than three months I would not have remained, I would have failed to fulfil my defence obligations", explained the main counsel, Gilles Saint Laurent.

Theoretically, the ICTR should have finished its trials in three weeks. It has only finished half and noting the impossibility of trying elsewhere the alleged organizers of the genocide, the Security Council granted last June a one year extension until the end of December 2009.

PB/ER/MM/SC/GF

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