Arusha, 5 June 2009 (FH) - As  the deadline to complete all first instance trials was approaching, the President of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Justice Dennis Byron, pleaded Thursday to the UN  Security Council to extend the mandate of the  UN Court judges  to 31 December 2010. The UN Court is trying key suspects of the 1994 genocide.

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The UN had directed last year that ICTR complete all first instance trials by end of this year.

Judge Byron, however, explained to the Security Council that at least one trial would not be finished within the deadline and that the judgements in many case could be rendered only next year, adding that the Tribunal was also confronted with exodus of its middle and key personnel.

He also reminded that 13 fugitives indicted by the ICTR were still at large 15 years after the genocide. Among the fugitives is Felician Kabuga, the alleged financier of worst killings of modern century.

Meanwhile, the US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) Monday criticised the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for failing to prosecute former Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) senior officers for their alleged atrocities committed in Rwanda in 1994, but Kigali has already dismissed the criticisms.

In a letter addressed to the ICTR Prosecutor, HRW charged that the court must urgently indict the former senior RPF officers whose jurisdictions fall under it.

In another development,the prosecution Thursday rested its case in the trial of Yusuf Munyakazi accused of having killed ethnic Tutsis who had sought refuge in churches during the 1994 genocide.

A former businessman, Munyakazi, 74, is the oldest prisoner at the Arusha-based ICTR.

The testimony of the 12th and last prosecution witness, a man designated by pseudonym "BWU", lasted only Thursday. Presented as a repented genocidaire, the witness who was sentenced to 10 years in Rwanda stated that Munyakazi had directed an attack on 29 April 1994 against Tutsis who had sought refuge in the complex of Parish Church of Shangi, former prefecture of Cyangugu, south-western Rwanda.

According to the testimony, the defendant advised the attackers to cover themselves with branches before entering the enclosure of the place of worship. "We then entered the complex (...) we opened fire, some Tutsis died, others, we killed with machetes", claimed BWU.

Munyakazi followed attentively the testimony, sometimes exchanging remarks with one of the Rwandan investigators from his defence team.

The trial began on 22 April. The Chamber has yet to set the date for the defence to begin its case.

Munyakazi was arrested in May 2004 in east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he pretended to be an Imam, under the name of Mzee Mandevu (literally, the bearded old man in Kiswahili).

He is defended by Jwani Mwaikusa, who is a law professor at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


© Hirondelle News Agency