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Four senior military officers to be tried together

Trial Chamber III today granted the Prosecutor's motion to join the cases of The Prosecutor vs. Théoneste Bagosora, The Prosecutor vs. Gratien Kabiligi and Aloys Ntabakuze and The Prosecutor vs. Anatole Nsengiyumva, known as "the Military Group," for the purposes of a joint trial.

The Chamber composed of Judges Lloyd George Williams, presiding, William Sekule and Pavel Dolenc agreed with the Prosecutor's arguments that the accused are charged with the same crimes, in particular conspiracy to commit genocide, among other offences.

The Prosecutor argued that all of the accused were members or former members of the military hierarchy in Rwanda in 1994, and that they were all involved in the preparation for the genocide and in anti-Tutsi programmes including military training and supply of Interahamwe militia.

The Prosecution added that in 1994 Bagosora was the Director of the Office of the Minister of Defence. Below him, in terms of military hierarchy, were the Chiefs of Staff of the Army and the Gendarmerie. Directly under the Chief of Staff was the Commander of Military Operations, a position held by Kabiligi, below whom in turn were a number of positions including Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion, Ntabakuze and the Commander of Gisenyi Region, Nsengiyumva. This created a nexus between the accused justifying their being tried together.

The Trial Chamber held that if the joinder was granted the overall time required to try the four accused jointly might be significantly reduced. It noted that "there are approximately 40 accused presently in custody. Individual trials of each accused would result in some accused being in custody for a considerably long time. In such circumstances the interests of justice and the public interest would not be served." It also ruled that the joinder would allow for a more consistent and detailed presentation of the evidence and for better protection of the victims' and witnesses' physical and mental safety by eliminating the need for them to make several journeys and to repeat their testimony.

The Trial Chamber assured the Defence Counsel in the three Trials, who had opposed the motion, that from the information adduced there was no specific showing that there would be "contamination" of evidence against individual accused, nor was any prejudice shown. "The Trial Chamber will judge each individual accused solely on the basis of the evidence adduced against each accused. Evidence against one accused is not evidence against another accused," it stated.

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