Contractual misunderstandings have once again stalled proceedings in the trial of Rwandan lawyer Léonidas Nshogoza who is accused of Contempt of Court and perjury.
Nshogoza was arrested in February 2008 accused of forcing false testimonies from witnesses appearing against his client Emmanuel Rukundo who was charged with Genocide crimes by the ICTR in September 2002.
Nshogoza was also accused of similar crimes while working in the defense team of another genocide suspect, Kamuhanda Jean De Dieu, the former minister of Education who was sentenced to life in prison by the ICTR. He was arrested in June 2007 in Gitarama for coercing a witness appearing against his client.
As an indigent person, Nshogoza was given Allison Turner, a French lawyer, to defend him. Turner’s costs would be footed by the ICTR Registry which agreed to pay her US dollars 50,000 but later backtracked. They had a disagreement and Turner left Arusha for France.
The ICTR registry hired another lawyer for Nshogoza but he refused the new lawyer in his May 2008 initial appearance in court. This is the first case at the ICTR to be stalled by financial matters involving a lawyer and the registry.
Since all the suspects held by the ICTR are considered indigent which means that they are very poor and therefore cannot afford to pay for their legal services, the ICTR pays for the costs of their trials and everything else involved in the case.
The Registry of the ICTR is the sole organ of the court which handles all matters of finance and administration. When court proceedings in Nshogoza’s case resumed on Thursday 28 August, there was a bitter exchange between the defense, prosecution teams in the case and the judges comprising of the third trial chamber team of Khalida Rachid Khan, presiding, Lee Gaciuga Muthoga and Emile Francis Short.
The President of the ICTR, Dennis M. Byron, was the confirming judge in the complex legal process.
Nshogoza was arrested on 16 June 2007 in Gitarama, after spending six months in jail, he appeared before the court in Rwanda on 19 November and the prosecutor requested 10 years of imprisonment for his crime.
He was instead released on bail, awaiting precise details from the ICTR, which also carried out its own investigation into the affair and issued an arrest warrant for him in January 2008. He handed himself to the ICTR in February 2008 and appeared for the first time in court on 28th May.
When the confusion of the lawyers could not be settled, the chamber adjourned the next hearing in Nshogoza’s case to 29 September 2008.
Ironically, Nshogoza’s case was one of several that the ICTR President Dennis M. Byron presented to the Security Council early June 2008 as he asked for the mandate of the ICTR to be extended by one year till the end of 2009.
Formed in 1994, the Arusha based court was supposed to end all trial proceedings by the end of 2008. However, there are only four months to the end of the first mandate. It has issued 91 arrest warrants and effected only 41 since its formation in 1994.
An independent researcher at the court concluded that the ICTR would need an extra eight years to complete all trials. They put current estimates at 11 years for each trial that the court has handled.