Unlikely Conspiracy

06 December 2004 by our correspondent

Nothing seems to be going right for the Government I trial at the Arusha Tribunal. The trial, which began a year ago, was adjourned after six months, and then, in October, the Appeals Chamber ordered it to start again from scratch before a new panel of judges. Today, it is the focus of renewed battles between defence teams and the prosecutor's office.

Two weeks ago, the prosecution announced a surprise motion to sever one of the defendants, André Rwamakuba, from the trial, to take advantage of the new beginning. Unlike his three co-accused, the former Minister for Primary and Secondary Education in the April 1994 government was not a member of the MRND presidential party. The information was hardly new, but suddenly became the grounds for the prosecution to push for two separate trials. Arguing his motion, Prosecutor Don Webster explained that, since 1998, the prosecution has progressively opted for "split" indictments. In the past, it embraced "the ambitious project" of running "a huge trial" of former Rwandan high-ranking civilian and military leaders. "But with hindsight, we should have reviewed the procedural approach to hold more effective trials that were fairer both to the accused and the victims," he told the court. He then announced his gift to Rwamakuba, who was not present at the hearing: the prosecution would be dropping the count of conspiracy to commit genocide.

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