17.01.11 - ICTR/NGIRABATWARE - NGIRABATWARE'S DEFENCE CASE ADJOURNED SINE DIE

Arusha, January 17, 2011 (FH) - The Trial Chamber hearing the defence case of former Rwandan minister of Planning Augustin Ngirabatware at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was on Monday compelled to adjourn the proceedings following the defence motion for disqualification of his judges.
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‘'The Chamber is of the view that the proceedings have to be adjourned pending the decision of the bureau on the matter and thereafter parties will be notified on how the matter will proceed ,'' Tanzanian Presiding Judge William Hussein Sekule announced. Other members of the bench are Ugandan Salomy Balungi Bossa and Mparany Rajohnson from Madagascar.

The former minister who was supposed to continue testifying on his own defence at the resumption of the case is accused of genocide or in the alternative conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination and rape as crimes against humanity. He started defending himself on November 16, 2010. The crimes were allegedly committed in his home commune of Nyamyumba in Gisenyi prefecture, northern Rwanda.

In a 235-page written motion the defence listed nine facts allegedly warranting the disqualification of the three judges which - it states in its introduction - "demonstrates the willingness of the Trial Chamber to entertain every effort to convict the accused irrespective to the merits and the principles of equality of arms.''

The motion also claimed that the Chamber is biased indicating that ‘'it was the first time in history of the Tribunal that a Trial Chamber was forcing an accused to start his trial less than one month after receiving the indictment.''

Facts also supporting the motion listed included the failure to disclose materials relevant to the case, admissibility of evidence exhibits favoring the prosecution, just to mention a few.

Prosecution in its response dated January 13, among other things asked the Bureau to dismiss the defence motion in its entirety stating ‘' it failed to rebut the presumption of impartiality that attaches to the judges of this Tribunal.''

The response also alleged that the motion did not demonstrate any grounds in its lengthy and repetitive document justifying the refusal of the judges of Trial Chamber II to entertain motions not considered as claimed.

The prosecution also elaborated in its response that the motion ‘' failed to show that reasonable observer, properly informed of the relevant circumstances and traditions of integrity and impartiality would reasonably apprehend bias on the Honourable Judges of Trial Chamber II.''

The Bureau which is competent for such motions is composed of the President of the ICTR, Vice President and the presidents of the Trial Chambers of the tribunal.  

The case of Ngirabatware also son in-law of the former Rwandan wealthy business man, Félicien Kabuga, commenced on September 23, 2009. Kabuga, often referred to as financier of the 1994 Rwandan genocide is among the most wanted suspect by ICTR.

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