Arusha, May 21, 2012 (FH) – The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has allowed the prosecution to reopen for the second time its case to challenge defence of alibi for ex-Rwandan Planning Minister Augustin Ngirabatware.

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While the prosecution has been allowed to call one more witness to rebut the defendant’s testimony, Trial Chamber presided by Judge William Sekule has rejected the request by defence for former minister to call five witness in an attempt to contradict the rebuttal evidence.

In its decision dated May 18, 2012, the Chamber found that “the criterion for reopening the prosecution case-in-rebuttal has been established and it would be in the interest of justice to hear (protected) witness PRWIII.”

“The Chamber orders that prosecution witness should appear and testify as soon as possible and in any event not later than June 6, 2012,” reads part of the decision. The court is set to convene on June 18, for closing arguments.

It recalled that the testimony of Witness PRWIII, a Nigerian Diplomat, was relevant and had probative value as it deals with alibi of the accused, who claims that as of April 23 to May 23, 1994, was on mission in some countries, including Senegal, France, Swaziland and Togo, among others.

Six rebuttal witnesses testified during the rebuttal session that began on March 6, 2012 and witness PRWIII was expected to testify. But as of April 2, when the prosecution closed its case, he failed to appear before the Chamber because his government had not provided him clearance.

Denying the defence motion to call the rejoinder witnesses, the Chamber said in a separate decision given on the same May 18, 2012 that none of the proposed witnesses met the specific requirements for the rejoinder evidence.

“The purpose of rejoinder evidence is to afford the defence an opportunity to refute evidence of a new matter arising directly out of the prosecution’s rebuttal case, where the new matter is important to the case and could have been reasonably anticipated by the defence,” it said.

According to the decision, during presentation of its case-in-chief, the defence was put on notice that the accused’s alibi would be challenged and got an opportunity to vary its witness list to include those anticipated to testify in rejoinder.

“The proposed rejoinder witnesses appear intended to buttress the alibi of the accused and thus falls outside the scope of what is permissible for rejoinder witnesses,” the Chamber ruled.

Currently judges of the Chamber and representatives of prosecution and defence are in Rwanda to visit 28 sites, where the crimes were allegedly committed, including Kigali and its surroundings, Gitarama (central Rwanda) and Gisenyi (northwest).

In the case, Ngirabatware is charged with conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide or in the alternative, complicity in genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination and rape as crimes against humanity.

A doctor in economics, Ngirabatware was arrested in Germany in connection with the charges on September 17, 2007 and transferred to ICTR custody in Arusha, Tanzania on October 8, 2008. His trial took off on September 22, 2009.