Arusha, 11 March 2009 (FH) - The defence case of a Rwandan lawyer, Leonidas Nshogoza accused of contempt of court at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Wednesday could not take of for the second time in three days, forcing the Chamber to adjourn the trial sine die.

2 min 29Approximate reading time

‘'The defence is not ready to proceed with the case,'' Nshogoza's Canadian lead defence Counsel, Alison Turner told a three-man Trial Chamber III presided by its President Judge Khalida Khan from Pakistan.

The prosecution completed its case on February 19, 2009 after presenting five witnesses and the defence case, scheduled to commence Monday this week, failed to do so following defence demands from the Chamber, the security assurance for its protected witnesses - whom they claimed two of them were summoned by the Rwandan authorities before they come to Arusha - to testify for her client.

Counsel Turner repeatedly insisted in a heated debate between her and the bench that she would not continue with the trial until the security issue for her defence witnesses was assured.

President Khan then ordered the first defence witness only known by pseudonym A3 to be brought in the court for questioning on whether on not he was ready to testify but that met strong opposition from Counsel Turner who wanted the Chamber to read the report she prepared on behalf of her witness instead of directly interrogating him.

Witnesses A3 had already given testimony in the trial of former Rwandan minister for Education and Culture, Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda in January 2003 using codename JPB. The ex-minister was convicted for genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004.

‘'Madam Turner, there is no better statement than what the witness himself will tell us,'' a Kenyan Judge Lee Mothoga , a member of the bench remarked paving way for the first witness to enter into the court.

The Chamber took time to interrogate witness A3 and managed to clear his security worries hence was ready to testify but again Counsel Turner refused to make her opening statement saying she wanted first to consult the rest of her defence witnesses on the matter of their security.

The President of the Chamber, Judge Khan and Judge Muthoga got a hard time to order repeatedly Counsel Turner to sit down and give room to others to contribute there ideas in the discussion, sometimes in vain. ‘'We will take this continuous interference as contempt of court,'' President Khan threatened Counsel Turner more than three times but the warning was not respected and instead she continued saying the defence was not ready to make an opening statement.

Even when Judge Muthoga jogged her memory that ‘'there was no room for drama in a criminal proceeding,'' the Counsel quickly responded ‘' the defence cannot proceed because I do not know what my case is.''

At this juncture the President could not hold her horses, ending up asking; are you serious that you do not know what your case is?

Shortly after Counsel Turner repeated her stand that she still needed to consult her witnesses and Prosecutor, Richard Karegyesa on the other side calling for the Chamber to sanction the counsel, the President adjourned the trial sine die.

This trial began on 9 February.

Nshogoza has been accused of having tried to subvert court of justice in the trial of a former Rwandan Minister for Education and Culture, Kamuhanda.

Nshogoza is alleged to have tried to bribe prosecution witnesses to retract their statements in favor of Kamuhanda whose trial by then employed the accused as its investigator. At ICTR, a person convicted of contempt of court faces a maximum sentence of five years or a fine of US $ 10,000 or both.

The first victim of this offence was a protected prosecution witness dubbed "GAA" who was sentenced to nine months imprisonment in December 2007 after being found guilty of contempt of court by the UN Tribunal.


© Hirondelle News Agency