24.09.10 - ICTR/NZABONIMANA - FORMER RWANDAN MINISTER APPEAL OVER FRENCH GOVERNMENT DISMISSED

Arusha, September 24, 2010 (FH) - The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has refused to order the Tribunal's President to report the French government to the Security Council for failure to cooperate having being requested to provide information, allegedly backing up defence of alibi of genocide-accused Callixte Nzabonimana.  
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The information needed for defence allegedly suggests that Nzabonimana, former Rwandan Youth Minister, was at the French Embassy in Kigali during genocide between April 7 and 12, 1994, a period which the prosecution claims that the defendant was busy organizing killings of Tutsis in his native commune of Nyabikenke (Central Rwanda).

In its decision posted in the ICTR website and made available to Hirondelle News Agency Friday, the Chamber dismissed the appeal by Nzabonimana, challenging the order of Trial Chamber III to rescind its decision dated March 4, 2010, for the President to act against French government for non-cooperation.

The Trial Chamber rescinded the decision after realizing that France fulfilled the requests made in various decisions when its embassy in Tanzania supplied to the ICTR Registry several documents, which were later served upon the prosecution and defence on March 16, 2010 and, therefore, complied with its obligations.

 "A trial Chamber is not precluded from reconsidering its decision to request the President to report the non-cooperation of a state to the Security Council when a change in circumstances occurs, particularly where, as in this case, that change of circumstance was cooperation by the state concerned," the chamber said.

It ruled, therefore, that the Trial Chamber did not error in finding that it had the powers to reconsider its March 4, 2010 decision and that the delivery by France of the March 16, 2010 documents amounted to new circumstances.

The Appeals Chamber further refused to grant permission to Nzabonimana to appeal against the President's decision dated May 5, 2010. The president had dismissed as moot the defendant's motion for implementation of the March 4, 2010 decision.

"Accordingly, once a Trial Chamber has rescinded its request under Rule 7bis of the Rules, the President is no longer seized of the matter and his subsequent decision not to report the matter to the Security Council cannot be successfully challenged on appeal," it ruled.

In May 2010, Nzabonimana defence obtained from ICTR three diplomatic documents suggesting that the defendant sought refuge at the French Embassy in Kigali after President Juvénal Habyarimana's assassination on April 6, 1994 and requested the same to be accepted as exculpatory evidence.

Canadian defence co-counsel Philippe Larochelle had once blamed the French authorities for dragging their feet for more than a year and a half, preventing him from meeting with former employees at the French embassy in Kigali, namely security guards, who could be witnesses for the defence.

He asserted that their testimony would prove that Nzabonimana had no time to go to Nyabikenke and come back during his rare and short exits from the embassy between April 7 and 12, 1994.

The former minister is facing five charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder. The Prosecution presents him as the main instigator of the killings in his home prefecture of Gitarama.

Nzabonimana pleads not guilty. The trial is expecting to resume on October 11.

FK/NI/ER/GF

© Hirondelle News Agency