Arusha, August 20, 2010 (FH) - After the death of Joseph Nzirorera, Prosecution and defence lawyers of the two remaining accused in the MRND trial will meet on Monday to discuss legal consequences of the case.

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Former Secretary General of the Rwandan ruling party in 1994, Nzirorera was notably charged jointly with his co-top MRND leaders, President Mathieu Ngirumpatse and his Vice-President Edouard Karemera for crimes of genocide allegedly committed by members of their party.

He died on July 1, in Arusha, before completion of his defence case, following "sudden complications of a long illness", according to the ICTR.

A heavyweight in Juvénal Habyarimana's entourage, this son of Ruhengeri (North of Rwanda), escaped men's justice while calling to the bar some of his witnesses.

This new development was the last of numerous changes that disrupted this trial.

The unwise hospitality of Judge Vaz

In a first trial opened in November 2003, the three former leaders were slated to appear before the court alongside former Minister for Primary and Secondary school André Rwamakuba.

Rwamakuba was at the time of the genocide member of the Democratic and Republican Movement (MDR), an opposition party to Juvénal Habyarimana's MRND.

In May 2004, Senegalese presiding judge Andrésia Vaz had to decline to act in this case after being suspected of partiality for hosting a member of the prosecution in her private home.

American Prosecutor Don Webster took advantage of this development to request a separation of the cases, in order for him to focus on proving that MNRD leaders did plan the genocide.

Rwamakuba was tried alone and acquitted on September 2006. Prosecution did not lodge an appeal.

New trial for MRND leaders

On their side, MRND leaders came back into the box on September 19, 2005. The new trial is presided over by Judge Dennis Byron from Saint-Kitts and Nevis, assisted by Ghanean Emile Short and Burkinabé Gustave Kam.

In his opening statement, Chief prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow announces in front of a packed audience that his work would emphasize the creation, commandment and control of the Interahamwe militia - the spearhead of the genocide - as well as the genesis of the genocide and the role of sexual violence.

The new trial goes hobbling, victim of countless requests from the defence team, especially Nzirorera's lawyers.

Judge Short retires

On January 19, 2007, Judge Short announces his withdrawal from the case for "health reasons".  At this point, Prosecutor Don Webster had hardly called to the stand 13 witnesses out of an expected total of a hundred.

Danish judge Vagn Joensen is assigned to the bench as Short's successor.

A new problem arises in August 2008, Mathieu Ngirumpatse being critically ill and hospitalized in Nairobi. Pointing out his right to be physically present during his trial, he allowed very few hearings to be held without him.

He comes back to the stand in a slightly better shape on October 19, 2009 for the opening of Joseph Nzirorera's defence. However, the Chamber could not be in session all day long, the accused being far from healed.

Nzirorera's American lawyer Peter Robinson puts the case for the defence while struggling with the Chamber which requests him to diminish the number of witnesses he wants to call upon.

At last, on July 1st, 2010, in the middle of Colonel Théoneste Bagosora's testimony, the court announces the death of Joseph Nzirorera, who would be buried two weeks later in Belgium, where part of his family lives.

On August 12, proceedings are formally terminated in his case.


© Hirondelle News Agency