Arusha, September 15, 2011 (FH) -The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has withdrawn its order imposing sanctions to Callixte Nzabonimana's defence lawyers for misconduct.

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The Tribunal had sanctioned Nzabonimana's lead counsel Vincent Courcelle-Labrousse and co-counsel Philippe Larochelle for disclosing the name of a protected prosecution witness in its motion seeking admission of a document for the defence case.

"The Trial Chamber recalls that in the impugned decision it imposed the sanction of denial of fees to the defence pursuant to Rule 46 (A). The Trial Chamber finds that it erred and observes that such sanctions should have been imposed under Rules 46 and 73 (F)," it said in a decision published in ICTR website.

Both Rules allow the Chamber to provide sanctions to counsel for an act that amount to abuse of process or, otherwise, contrary to the interest of justice.

According to the Chamber, after issuing the impugned decision on May 10, 2011, it discovered that the defence had filed a reply to the prosecution's response on its motion for admission of the document in question in which it acknowledged disclosing the name of the protected witness and apologized for doing so.

"Given the defence apology contained in its reply, the Trial Chamber considers that reconsideration of the impugned decision is warranted and thus withdraws its prior sanctions," it further ruled.

The Chamber, however, cautioned the defence to underscore critical importance of witness protective measures and deter from further mishaps in future. It considered that the defence's failure to take adequate care accorded to witnesses was a very serious matter even if such failure was inadvertent.

"Thus, should there be another breach of the protective measures accorded to witnesses, the Trial Chamber will proceed to sanction counsel," it warned.

Nzabonimana, who was arrested in Tanzania on February 18, 2008, is charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, extermination and murder.

His trial opened on November 9, 2009 and was concluded on September 12, 2011. The prosecution called 20 witnesses, while the defence fielded 38. The trial has been adjourned until further notice for the parties to present their closing arguments.


© Hirondelle News Agency