Twenty-two of the forty-one detainees held in the Detention Facility of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha have signed a letter dated 24 October 2000 in which they announce that they will observe a two day "strike" to express their solidarity with fellow detainee Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza.
The trial of Barayagwiza and his co-accused, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze opened on Monday 23 October. Barayagwiza refused to attend the hearings on the ground that the Tribunal was incapable of giving him a fair trial. He also instructed his lawyers, appointed for him by the Tribunal, not to attend hearings but otherwise to continue to represent him.
On Wednesday 25 October the Trial Chamber "in an abundance of caution and in the interests of preserving the accused’s rights", while giving him the opportunity for further reflection, rejected the lawyers’ request to withdraw from the hearing. The lawyers said that that decision put them in an impossible position and they have therefore applied to withdraw from the case completely. The Chamber will rule on that application on Monday, 30 October.
The detainees’ letter, addressed to the President of the Tribunal, Judge Navanethem Pillay, does not specify what form the strike will take, however, it is believed that it may include refusal to take meals and to attend court hearings. The Commander of the Detention Facility has reported to the Registrar that several of the signatories of the letter have taken their meals normally, although most have refused to do so, or to meet with their legal representatives. The three defendants in the Cyangugu case, as well as Barayagwiza’s co-defendants, appeared in court normally today.