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At request of UN tribunal for Rwanda, defence investigator arrested in Tanzania

At request of UN tribunal for Rwanda, defence investigator arrested in Tanzania

A defence team investigator at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was arrested by Tanzanian authorities over the weekend at the request of the Tribunal's Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte.

The investigator - who has been travelling on a passport from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) under the assumed name of Sammy Bahati Weza - is actually Simeon Nshamihigo, formerly deputy prosecutor in Cyangugu Prefecture during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, ICTR said in a statement issued today in Arusha.

At the time of his arrest he was working for the defence team of Samuel Imanishimwe, one of the three defendants in what is known as the "Cyangugu Trial." The other defendants are former Minister of Transport Andre Ntagerura and the former Prefect of Cyangugu, Emmanuel Bagambiki.

Mr. Nshamihigo, who was briefly detained by ICTR security last Saturday before being arrested by the Tanzanian police outside the Tribunal premises, is still in the custody of the Tanzanian authorities pending a formal handover to the ICTR.

Ms. Del Ponte today made an application to a Tribunal Judge for provisional detention of the suspect under a specific ICTR rule that allows provisional detention of a suspect for an initial period of 30 days, which can be renewed by the Tribunal.

"Defence investigators are not staff members of the ICTR," the Tribunal statement said. "They are independent contractors recruited by defence counsel as part of the defence teams and their fees are part of the legal aid package for indigent accused persons funded by the ICTR. Defence teams are independent in the manner in which they prepare their defence."

A UN report issued last February concerning allegations of fee-splitting between some defence counsel and their clients pointed out that none of the defence investigators had ever visited Rwanda during the course of their work. In light of that report, the Tribunal early this year instituted a more rigorous screening process to ensure that legal aid given to the accused was not abused.