The 5th Plenary Session of the Judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) ended today, Monday 8 June 1998, after adopting a list of major amendments to the Rules of Procedure and Evidence in order to speed up cases before the Tribunal. The amendments include a decision that in the future, the judgement and sentencing will be dealt with as one and not two separate procedures.
The Plenary Session, comprising the six judges of the two Trial Chambers in Arusha and five judges of the Appeals Chamber in the Hague, which sat in Arusha from Monday, 1 June 1998, was also attended by the Prosecutor and the Registrar of the Tribunal, who presented proposals for amendments in their respective areas.
The Session has also decided that in order to improve legal assistance to suspects and accused persons, only counsels who have at least ten years of relevant experience can be assigned to indigent suspects or accused persons.
Measures adopted to speed up cases before the Tribunal include having conferences before either of the parties present their evidence, during which the parties may be ordered to outline contested and non-contested issues in order to allow Judges to shorten examination of some of the witnesses, or to reduce the number of witnesses to be called to prove the same facts.
More power has in addition been given to the Judges to control interrogations of witnesses during trial so as to make the interrogations and presentations more effective and to avoid needless delays.
Further, the Plenary Session has adopted measures which will enable admission into evidence of written testimonies of expert witnesses without oral hearing of the witness, if the opposing party accepts the statement of the expert witness.
As regards handling of witnesses, the Judges have amended the rules to ensure better support for the witnesses including physical and psychological rehabilitation, especially counselling in cases of rape and sexual assault. It has been decided to outline a gender sensitive approach to victims and witnesses in relation to protective and support measures.
The Plenary Session has also adopted the draft Annual Report of the Tribunal covering the period beginning 1 July 1997 to 30 June 1998, which will be presented to the United Nations General Assembly by the President of the Tribunal, Judge Laïty Kama, at the end of the year .
The Plenary Session is the highest judicial policy making forum of the ICTR, at which the proposals for amendment to the Tribunal's Rules of Procedure and Evidence, Rules Covering the Detention of Persons Awaiting Trial or Appeal Before the Tribunal, and the Directive on Assignment of Defence Counsel are considered and adopted.
Appeals Chamber Dismisses Appeals by the Prosecution and the Defence in the cases of Bagosora and Rutaganda Respectively
The Appeals Chamber today dismissed an appeal by the Prosecutor against a decision of a confirming Judge dismissing an indictment against Theoneste Bagosora and 28 others, and that of the Defence, against a decision of a Trial Chamber rejecting Defence motions to direct the Prosecution to investigate the matter of false testimony by two witnesses in the case of The Prosecutor vs. Georges Anderson Rutaganda.
This was the first time the Appeals Chamber, which is based in the Hague, The Netherlands has sat in Arusha to deliberate on appeals from the ICTR. An ICTR Update No.10 carries a detailed report on the dismissal of the appeal in the case of The Prosecutor vs. Theoneste Bagosora and 28 Others.