By three separate decisions Trial Chambers I and III of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) today ordered that a document concerning the circumstances surrounding the plane crash on 6 April 1994,in which President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Cyprien Ntariyamira of Burundi were killed, be released to the parties.
The document, a three page memorandum dated 1 August 1997, was prepared by Mr. Michael Hourigan, a former member of one of the investigation teams of the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICTR, acting on his own initiative. At the time he wrote the memorandum Mr Hourigan was working for the Office of Internal Oversight Services at UN Headquarters in New York. When the memorandum had been located the Secretary General decided to transmit it to the Tribunal so that the appropriate Trial Chamber could determine under what circumstances and conditions the document could be released.
Defence counsel in the case of Bagilishema (Trial Chamber I) and the in joined case of Kabiligi and Ntabakuze (Trial Chamber III) requested the disclosure of the document which had been placed under seal by order of the President of the Tribunal. In both cases the defence argued that, since the respective indictments made reference to the plane crash of 6 April 1994, the document was material to the case and that its disclosure was necessary for a full and unfettered defence.
The Chambers made no findings as to the admissibility as evidence or the relevance of the memorandum to either case. Such questions will fall to be decided if and when the memorandum is submitted as evidence in the trials. Nonetheless in the interest of justice and in the circumstances of the respective cases the Chambers each decided to make the memorandum available to the parties, specifying that this was solely for the purposes of each case.
In the Bagilishema case Judge Mehmet Güney added a separate, dissenting opinion on the ground that the defence had failed to demonstrate the relevance of the document to the case.