Tanzania: Court Rejects Kabuga’s Request to Change Lawyer
By Deus Ngowi
THE International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) has turned down an application to replace the lawyer representing Rwandan Felicien Kabuga who is indicted for Rwandan 1994 genocide.
Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy ruled in Arusha on April 1st that it is Court rejects Kabuga’s request to change lawyer in the interest of justice that lawyer Emmanuel Altit be retained as Kabuga’s representative.
Other judges in the trial chamber are Graciela Susana Gatti Santana and Elizabeth Ibanda-Nahamya.
Kabuga asked for replacement of Mr Altit in February this year, saying he had identified a replacement counsel, and that the counsel met the relevant requirements for assignment and was immediately available.
The replacement was identified as Mr Peter Robinson.
Judge Bonomy said that rules provide that under exceptional circumstances, at the request of the accused or his counsel, a Chamber may instruct the registrar to replace an assigned counsel, upon good cause being shown and after having been satisfied that the request is not designed to delay the proceedings.
He noted that Kabuga’s indication that he wants to change counsel and identified a qualified replacement counsel is not dispositive.
“While some weight is accorded to the accused’s preference, this may be overridden if it is in the interests of justice to do so. Right now, it is in the interests of justice to do so. In this context, withdrawing the assignment of Mr Altit now would be contrary to Kabuga’s interests as well as to the interests of a fair and expeditious proceeding,” he added.
The judge said the trial chamber will continue to follow the situation, and it will revisit the issue if indeed it is necessary and appropriate to ensure Kabuga’s best interests.
“At this stage, however, in the Trial Chamber’s view, retaining Mr Altit is in Kabuga’s best interests.” “In light of the foregoing, the Trial Chamber denies the Motion to Withdraw; instructs the Registrar (Mr Abubacarr Tambadou) to appoint Mr Altit as Kabuga’s counsel under the Mechanism’s legal aid scheme until further order,” ruled Judge Bonomy.
It came to pass that Kabuga and his family members were pressing Mr Altit to take instructions directly from Kabuga’s family members, something which is contrary to what the rules want – that instructions be taken from the accused person only and that is in order to maintain confidentiality in special matters related to the cases.
Kabuga was arrested in France on 16th May 2020 and temporarily transferred on 26th October 2020 to United Nations Detention Unit at the Hague Branch of the Mechanism (UNDU) for a detailed medical assessment to determine whether and under what circumstances he could be safely transferred to the Arusha branch of the Mechanism for trial.