Arusha, November 15, 2010 (FH) - Hearing of defence case of former Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware failed to take off Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) because of the prosecution's request, seeking one month postponement of the proceedings to enable them get more particulars of witnesses.

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Trial Chamber II presided over by Judge William Sekule will on Tuesday decide whether there should be such postponement considering that the defence was ready to proceed with the hearing starting with the first list of 10 out of 95 witnesses expected to testify and the willingness of the defendant to start giving his testimony.

Trial Attorney Patrick Gabaake told the Chamber that the information provided by defence were not sufficient to allow the prosecution to conduct comprehensive investigations regarding the witnesses, hence the need to be given adequate time to look for such particulars on their own.

"The disclosure provided regarding defence witnesses is so scanty and designed to make the prosecution have difficult time to acquire information about them. We need time to do our own investigation more effectively," the prosecutor argued.

He complained further that what the defence has provided was only the country of current location, like Rwanda or France, without providing more details, including the current employment, address and nationality. Such act, he claimed, was contrary to the court's advice for the parties to observe a spirit of cooperation to ensure expeditious trial.

The defendant's co-counsel Mylene Dimitri, however, told the court that the particulars provided to the prosecution regarding their witnesses were sufficient and in compliance with the tribunal's jurisprudence. Therefore, she alleged, the prosecution's motion lacked substances and should be rejected.

"There is no substance at all. The prosecutor is asking for one month postponement, which will be December 15 and the court will be under judicial recess. So it is not one month but two months postponement," the counsel submitted.

Defence case of Ngirabatware comes after the prosecution had closed its case on August 31, 2010. The defendant's trial took off September 22, 2009 and the prosecution called 20 witnesses to prove charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Ngirabatware hails from what used to be the Nyamyumba district Gisenyi prefecture (North of Rwanda). He is the son-in-law of Felicien Kabuga, the alleged sponsor of the 1994 genocide, who is still on the run.

The former minister fled Rwanda in July 1994 and subsequently worked in various research institutes in Gabon and France. He was arrested in Germany on September 17, 2007 and has been in ICTR custody since October 8, 2008.


© Hirondelle News Agency