Arusha, 16 February 2009 (FH) - The office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has requested a disjoinder of proceedings in the trial of three former leaders of the former presidential party, following the illness of one of them.

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The former president of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), Mathieu Ngirumpatse has been hospitalized for several months in a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.

During a status conference on Monday, the representative of the prosecutor, Don Webster, indicated that a disjoinder of proceedings was from now on "the only way".

Mr. Webster had, however, joined the defence teams in November when the Chamber had for the first time thought about separating the Ngirumpatse proceedings from that of the former vice-president and secretary-general of the MRND, Edouard Karemera and Joseph Nzirorera.

Being astonished by this reversal, all the defence counsels asked the Chamber to suspend the trial for an additional three months.

Ngirumpatse fell ill as Karemera, the first to present his defence, had started to call his witnesses.

"At this stage, a disjoinder of proceedings is not the most adequate solution", pleaded Ngirumpatse's main counsel, Chantal Hounkpatin, inviting the judges "not to put in danger the trial".

For his part, Peter Robinson who defends Nzirorera, asked the Chamber not to place "the completion strategy" of the Tribunal before the requirements of a fair trial.

The ICTR president, Judge Dennis Byron who is also presiding this case, committed himself before the Security Council to finish all the first instance trials by the end of the year.

"It would be necessary that decisions be based on law", recommended Robinson.

Coming to the same conclusion, Felix Sow, Karemera's co-counsel, reminded the president of his own statements before the United Nations in October 2007. "

« As the Tribunal takes measures to accelerate the trials, it is particularly important to ensure that the fundamental criteria of a fair trial are not compromised so that no informed observer can regard the process or the result as unfair", had ensured Judge Byron.

After having heard all the parties, the Chamber promised to render its decision as soon as possible.

The prosecutor alleges, in this trial, the existence, on the level of the direction of the MRND, of a joint criminal enterprise aiming at eliminating Tutsis, which the defendants deny.


© Hirondelle News Agency