August 23, 2010 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Monday warned two French lawyers, Chantal Hounkpatin and Frédéric Weyl, for refusing to make their opening statement in defence of former MRND President Mathieu Ngirumpatse, charged with genocide alongside his party's Vice-President Edouard Karemera.

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"It is clear you have defied our order and it appears you cannot make the opening statement today. Under Rule 46 of the Rules, we will issue to you (Chantal Hounkpatin) and co-counsel warning. We direct the opening statements be given tomorrow," presiding Judge of Trial Chamber III, Dennis Byron, said.

The Chamber had directed Hounkpatin and Weyl, lead counsel and co-counsel for Ngirumpatse, respectively, to make opening statement after ordering the prosecution to amend the indictment in the case against Ngirumpatse and Karemera, following the death of their co-accused, Joseph Nzirorera, former MRND Secretary General, early July.

According to the Chamber's decision, the prosecution was required to remove Nzirorera's name from the title and counts in the indictment and delete any reference of his name as an accused. The Chamber further ordered the prosecution to refer to Nzirorera in normal front and not in bold.

However, amendments made by the prosecution in the indictment that was supplied to the defence thereafter drew criticisms from both Hounkpatin and Weyl and lead counsel for Karemera, Ms Dior Diagne, who argued that the prosecution had not complied with the Chamber's decision as the indictment against Nzirorera was still there.

The lawyers submitted further that their clients had not been served with the copy of the amended indictment and, therefore, it would not be possible for them to proceed making opening statement blindly under such circumstances.

Judge Byron clarified that the Chamber's decision had no effects of changing the substance of the indictment and, therefore, directed counsel for Ngirumpatse to proceeding giving opening statement for defence of the accused. Despite the clarification, the counsel continued to resist from making the opening statement.

Hounkpatin and Weyl, instead, sought the Chamber's leave to consult their client. After consultation, Hounkpatin informed the Chamber that her client was expressing his intention of making certification for appeal against the decision and she would not give opening statement for defence until the accused gets the amended indictment.

It was at that juncture the Chamber noted that the counsel were disobeying its decision and decided to invoke Rule 46 of the Court Rules to issue the warning against them.

Ngirumpatse and Karemera are charged with crimes committed by members of their party. The prosecution has indicted them for their superior responsibility as top officials of the party then in power in 1994.  Karemera has already completed his defence case.


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