Arusha, 5 March 2009 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has granted prosecution's motion to separate the ailing  genocide-accused, former President of then ruling National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), Mathieu Ngirumpatse, from the joint  trial of his two other colleagues.

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The case dubbed as "Karemera Trial" has been held back since August, 2008 because of the illness of the former MRND President, reports Hirondelle Agency.

Ngirumpatse has been confined to bed for months now in a Nairobi hospital. The two other accused in the joint trial are: Edouard Karemera, ex MRND vice-president, and Joseph Nzirorera, Ex- Secretary General of the party.

In a decision whose copy was obtained Thursday by Hirondelle, the Chamber, presided by Judge Dennis Byron, has ordered that the proceedings against Ngirumpatse be separated from the trial.

The Chamber has also directed that Karemera and Nzirorera's joint trial resume on 23 March with resumption of the testimony of the witnesses of the former MRND vice-president.

On 10 February, Trial Attorney Don Webster, had asked for a disjoinder of proceedings following Ngirumpatse's prolonged illness.  However, the defence teams had, for their part, proposed to the Chamber to suspend the proceedings for an additional three-month period.

Since Ngirumpatse's hospitalization, the Chamber held with the parties several "status conferences", which, however, did not succeed in getting the case out of the stalemate.

The ICTR jurisprudence in fact sanctioned the right of each defendant to be physically present at their trials unless they expressly gave up.

In their vain attempts to get the trial out of the impasse, the judges also often consulted with the official doctor of the Tribunal, Dr. Marie-Françoise Epée Hernandez, who was even sometimes summoned to answer the questions of the parties and the judges.

In her report on 27 February to the tribunal, the doctor indicated that Ngirumpatse's health condition required six more months of treatment.

After having examined all these factors, the Chamber concluded that "the interest of justice" demanded a disjoinder of proceedings. The parties to the trial have a right to appeal over the decision.

The trial of the three MRND leaders began on 19 September 2005. The prosecutor rested his case on 4 December 2007. On 7 April 2008, Karemera was the first to start presenting his defence case.

In the case considered as one of the most important of the Tribunal, the prosecution had the task of proving that the former presidential party carried out joint criminal enterprise to commit genocide against ethnic Tutsis in 1994.

A first trial in which the three leaders were prosecuted alongside the former minister for education, André Rwamakuba, who was from another party, was cancelled in September 2004 because of the appearance of bias from one of the judges, the Senegalese Andrésia Vaz.

In the calamity, the prosecutor had asked and obtained in February 2005 a separate trial for the officials of the former presidential party. Tried alone, Rwamakuba was acquitted in September 2006.


© Hirondelle News Agency