Arusha, September 18, 2000 (FH) – The trial of three genocide suspects linked to so-called hate-media in Rwanda was postponed on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), as defence lawyers demanded that two judges withdraw from the case. Defence counsel for Ferdinand Nahimana, former director of the notorious Radio Télévision des Mille Collines (RTLM), called for ICTR President Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa and Vice-President Eric Mose of Norway to be disqualified on the grounds that they had sat on the judgement of RTLM presenter Georges Ruggiu in June this year.

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Ruggiu was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to inciting genocide and crimes against humanity. He is expected to appear as a prosecution witness in the media trial of Nahimana, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a former politician and founder of RTLM, and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of the extremist newspaper Kangura. “The court found that Ruggiu was honest,” Nahimana’s British co-counsel Diane Ellis told the court. “Given the court’s position on his honesty, the defence are in an impossible position when it comes to challenging his honesty. ” She argued that judges Pillay and Mose would not be impartial in her client’s case, because of their role in Ruggiu’s. Defence lawyers for Nahimana and Barayagwiza argued that Judge Pillay’s impartiality was cast further into question by her participation in the trial of former Rwandan mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu, in which they said she had expressed the opinion that RTLM incited Hutus to kill Tutsis during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. But ICTR Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna of Cameroon urged the court to dismiss the defence arguments. “Judges here sit on other cases,” he said. “They would have heard something about the radio, they would have heard something about the widespread massacres. If we were to follow this, we would have new judges every time they sit for a trial… a judge hears one case and goes home! They would have to close the Tribunal!”The court is expected to render a decision on the motion Tuesday. However, Judge Pillay admitted that a number of other defence motions needed to be heard before the trial proper could get under way. Nahimana’s defence team also plans to ask for the case to be dismissed, on the grounds that the accused’s rights have been violated. Nahimana has been in ICTR custody since 1996. Barayagwiza’s defence team say they will challenge the form of the indictment and demand a separate trial. Prosecutors asked the court to authorize the transfer of three witnesses detained in Rwanda to appear in the trial. Observers note that Valérie Bemeriki, a former presenter with RTLM, is being held by the Rwandan authorities on genocide charges. Despite the delay in the long-awaited media trial, the ICTR nevertheless went ahead on Monday with the start of another joint trial, involving three suspects accused of genocide in the Cyangugu region of southwest Rwanda. The accused are former Transport Minister André Ntagerura, former prefect of Cyangugu Emmanuel Bagambiki and former Cyangugu military commander Samuel Iminishimwe. Ntagerura began by demanding the withdrawal of his lead counsel, Fakhy Konaté of Ivory Coast. Konaté is assisted by Henri Benoit of Canada. The charges against Ntagerura include allowing RTLM to broadcast, and not having withdrawn the authorization when RTLM became more and more extremist. AT/JC/FH (ME%0918e)