Arusha, June 25, 2010 (FH) - The defence case of genocide-accused and former President of MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, is expected to commence on July 5 before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  

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Ngirumpatse is charged alongside two other former senior leaders of the then ruling party in 1994, Vice President Edouard Karemera whose defence case has already been concluded and Secretary General Joseph Nzirorera who is about to complete his defence.

Ngirumpatse's French Co-counsel, Frederic Weyl told Hirondelle News Agency Friday that his team expected to field a total of 36 witnesses including the accused himself.

The three defendants are held responsible for their superior responsibility in crimes allegedly committed by their subordinates,especially Interahamwe militiamen.

Speaking on behalf of his defence team, Weyl asked  the ICTR to ensure the immunity of the defence counsels and their teams as they carried out their duties at the Tribunal.

‘'The immunity is not guaranteed and I ask the Tribunal to support us to do our job,'' lamented Weyl during an interview with Hirondelle news Agency about his reaction on the recent arrest in Rwanda of  Peter Erlinder on allegations of genocide denial.

Erlinder is a lead defence counsel for Major Aloys Ntabakuze already sentenced to life imprisonment by ICTR but now waiting for the hearing of his appeal.

Weyl claimed that Rwandan authorities did not honor the official note sent by the ICTR on June 15, on behalf of the UN Office of Legal Affairs to formerly assert immunity for Professor Erlinder without delay and request his immediate release accordingly.

Instead, he explained that Rwandan authorities released Erlinder on medical and humanitarian grounds contrary to what was expected. ‘'If I go to Rwanda I can be arrested,'' charged Weyl insisting that ‘'I am not free to do my job.''

Responding to Weyl's concerns ICTR President Judge Dennis Byron reminded the attorney that for the past 16 years of the existence of the Tribunal no one who went to Rwanda on a court's mission was arrested. ‘'This is not an issue which affects ICTR lawyers who travel to Rwanda on mission. I can say your immunity is guaranteed,'' ICTR President reiterated.

However, American Peter Robinson, lead Counsel for genocide-accused Nzirorera claimed he could possibly be a victim like his colleague Prof. Erlinder and requested the ICTR Registrar, Adama Dieng to reconsider his earlier rejected motion for withdrawal as counsel for the accused.

The Counsel has been charged with contempt of court for refusing to conduct examination of Nzirorera's defence witness. The court is yet to determine the matter.


© Hirondelle News Agency