Rwanda genocide suspect boycotts trial opening

 

The trial of a former army colonel accused of masterminding Rwanda's 1994 genocide began in Tanzania today, but he and his co-defendants boycotted the proceedings and refused to leave their cells.

"The fundamental rights of the defense have been violated," defense lawyer Jean Degli told the court. "They consider that the prosecution has ambushed them."

The case is seen as one of the most important to come before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as prosecutors will seek to prove in court for the first time that there was a high-level conspiracy to organise the genocide.

Genocide researchers say Bagosora is among the first of an alleged inner circle of chief conspirators to face a full trial at the tribunal, based in Arusha, northern Tanzania.

Defense lawyers say the prosecution has failed to hand them French translations of documents for their clients or provide them with advance copies of witness statements within the 35 days required by the tribunal rules for this case.

The prosecution in turn accused the defense of failing to the read the files it had provided

. "The problem is the failure of the counsel to properly read the documents," said lead prosecution counsel Chile Eboe-Osuji. "To come to court and start pointing fingers was wrong," he told the court.

Defense lawyers also said they wanted two key prosecution witnesses struck off the list before the trial could begin.