Arusha, 23 March 2009 (FH) - The Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) seized by the trial of three leaders of the former presidential party reconsidered on Monday its decision on a separation of proceedings, which it had rendered at the beginning of the month, following the prolonged illness of one of the defendants.

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On 3 March, the three judges had ordered that the former Vice-President and Secretary-General of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), Edouard Karemera and Joseph Nzirorera, respectively continue to be tried together and that the former president of the party, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, hospitalized in Nairobi, Kenya, be tried separately.

The defence teams had immediately appealed the decision.  

On Monday, the Chamber reconsidered its decision after Ngirumpatse, joined by telephone by his lawyer Chantal Hounkpatin, had accepted that the proceedings continue in his absence, while waiting for the decision of the Appeals Chamber.

At a standstill since August due to the poor health condition of the former president of the MRND, the trial will be able to, thus, resume on Tuesday with the continuation of the hearing of Karemera's witnesses, the first to present his defence case.

The joint trial of the three MRND leaders began on 19 September 2005. The prosecutor rested his case on 4 December 2007.

In this case, considered to be one of the most important of the Tribunal, the prosecution has the essential task of proving the existence, at the head of the former presidential party, of a joint criminal enterprise aiming at committing the genocide perpetrated against Tutsis in 1994.

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

In the whirlwind, the prosecutor had requested and obtained in February 2005 a separated trial for the officials of the former presidential party.

Tried alone, Rwamakuba, for his part, was acquitted in September 2006 and has been living in Switzerland since last year.


© Hirondelle News Agency