Last minute changes in the Muvunyi trial

29 March 2005 by our correspondent

"Rapes were committed by soldiers under the accused's command, and he did nothing to punish them," asserted the Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Hassan Bubacar Jallow, on the opening day of the trial of Tharcisse Muvunyi on 28 February 2005. Yet only a month earlier, Jallow had asked the judges for authorisation to strike the rape allegations from the indictment.

The motion sparked indignation in Rwandan circles and among international human rights groups. Even though the prosecutor\'s assistant, Alex Obote Odora, had explained that "some of the prosecution witnesses cannot be localised and others have refused to come and testify", that failed to pacify the outraged representative for Rwanda at the ICTR, Aloys Mutabingwa. "It is twisting the knife to suggest that witnesses have become reluctant," said the young diplomat in a memo of
11 February. "Withdrawing the rape charge from your prosecution case causes a serious breach of the proper administration of justice and a failure of justice itself," he continued. The incident echoes a previous outcry in December 2004 after the prosecutor announced he was dropping the rape charges against the former Minister of Primary and Secondary Education, André Rwamakuba.

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