Arusha, 29 October, 2009 (FH) - Record fifty-five witnesses are expected to testify in the defence of  the former Secretary General of  then Rwandan ruling party (MRND),   Joseph Nzirorera, on trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The prosecution presented almost half the number in the trial, which jointly accuses three top former leaders of MRND for their roles in the 1994 genocide. Records indicate that this is the highest number of defence witnesses ever to be presented in the Tribunal's 15-year history.

Lead American Defence Counsel, Peter Robison, told Hirondelle News Agency that they had envisaged to field 100 witnesses, but the Chamber limited them to 55 only.

Since the resumption of the trial on October 19, the defence has fielded only four witnesses. This session is expected to stretch up to November 27.

Edouard Karemera, former Vice-President of MRND, has already concluded his defence case after presenting 35 witnesses, including himself, on May 28, 2009.

MRND President Mathieu Ngirumpatse, who has been undergoing treatment for about a year now, is expected to commence his defence case after Nzirorera.

The three former party leaders are charged mainly for crimes committed by members of their party.

The Prosecution has indicted them for their "command responsibility" as top officials of the MRND, the party in power under former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, who was killed when his plane was shot-down by unknown assailants on April 6, 1994 as he was returning from a regional peace meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.


© Hirondelle News Agency