Arusha, January 4, 2011 (FH) - The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will start the year 2011 with the hearing of Mathieu Ngirumpatse's defense case.  On January 10, former President of the ruling party in 1994 (MRND) will call to the stand new witnesses.

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Former Vice-president of MRND, Edouard Karemera, the other defendant in this "joint trial" has already concluded his defense case. Both accused are charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, mainly for their "command responsibility" in crimes committed in 1994 by members of their party.

Ngirumpatse and Karemera pleaded not guilty to the charges, arguing that the prosecution has not proved the existence of what is called-de jure or de facto - a link of subordination between the authors of the crimes and themselves. This trial is one of the slowest and the most complex in the ICTR history.     

On January 17, another former member of Juvénal Habyarimana's government will resume his defense case. Augustin Ngirabatware, a son-in-law of alleged "banker of the genocide" Félicien Kabuga - was the Minister of Planning in 1994.

He is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, notably for inciting massacres of Tutsis in his home town of Nyamyumba (Prefecture of Gisenyi). He pleads not guilty. Since the opening of his defense case on November 16, 2010, he has provided with defence of alibi that the prosecution is now challenging.

Also on January 17, former mayor of Kivumu commune Grégoire Ndahimana will open his defense case. He is charged for his alleged role in the massacre of more than 2,000 Tutsis who had sought refuge at Nyange Parish in April 1994. According to the Prosecution, the mayor planned the church's slaughter jointly with several other officials.

In a separate development, the UN Security Council voted on December 22 a resolution presented by Austria which had been expected for months. The resolution sets up a new body to finish work of UN war crimes tribunals called the "International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals", with two branches.

According to a UN Press Release, "The Mechanism's branch for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will begin functioning on July 1, 2012, while the branch for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will commence on July 1, 2013".

To ensure a smooth transition to the Mechanism, the Council is urging both tribunals to take "all possible measures" to complete all their remaining work no later than December 31, 2014.


© Hirondelle News Agency