Arusha, November 22nd – The speed and horror with which the 1994 genocide unfurled in Rwanda has still not been fully explained. Some 800, 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in only 100 days, mostly at the hands of other civilians wielding machetes and traditional weapons.

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How was this possible ? The accepted theory is that the genocidal plans of Hutu extremists could never have been implemented on such an apocalyptic scale if it had not been for media which fed the fears of the population as Tutsi rebels advanced, and incited Hutus to kill in the name of self-defence. The notorious Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), in particular, is said to have directed killers to Tutsi hideouts and issued macabre calls such as “ The graves are only half-full, who will help us to fill them ? ”Two of the most influential people in RTLM, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and Ferdinand Nahimana, finally went on trial on October 23rd before the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Arusha, Tanzania. They are being tried jointly with journalist Hassan Ngeze, editor of the Kangura newspaper which, from 1990 up to the genocide, is said to have advocated Hutu supremacy and told Hutus to wake up to the Tutsi threat. For example, in December 1990, Kangura published the “_Hutu Ten Commandments_” which, according to press freedom group Article 19, “ called upon Hutu not to trust any Tutsi, particularly women. They stigmatized Hutu who failed to discriminate against Tutsi, declaring that any Hutu who even conducts business with a Tutsi is a "traitor"”. Yet both Kangura and RTLM started as apparently independent enterprises on a media scene which had until the early 1990s been dominated by state media. Hassan Ngeze’s American lawyer John Floyd portrays his client as a pioneer of the free press who was even locked up several times because of his lack of respect for the authorities. Some of Kangura’s cartoons still make people laugh. “ I"m hoping that the Tribunal does the right thing, ” says Floyd. “ Nobody should be able to sanction what I think or what I say. If I think my president or your president or your king or chief or whoever is a jerk, I`m gonna say he`s a jerk. I`m an American, I`m a free man. I`ve expressed it, I`ll write it, I`ll publish a newspaper about it and I know that I got three hundred million people in the United States of America who are going to back me up. ” Floyd, an African American, also believes it is patronising to want to apply different standards in Africa. The United States has some of the most liberal press laws, with virtually no restrictions on free speech, including “ hate ” speech. National jurisdictions vary widely on the issue and there is hardly any international case law on where the line between free speech and criminal incitement should fall. “ This case is going to set a precedent, ” says ICTR Deputy Prosecutor Bernard Muna of Cameroon. “ When the issues in this trial are decided, there will be a precedent set for the first time. ”The trial is also an important test for the credibility of the ICTR, which is subject to allegations of slowness, even incompetence, and bias towards the current pro-Tutsi regime in Kigali. Barayagwiza, who was an advisor to the interim government that presided over the genocide, as well as an influential figure in RTLM, has been boycotting the trial since it started and ordered his lawyers to do the same. He says he has no confidence that the Tribunal will give him a fair trial because it is the puppet of the “ dictatorial anti-Hutu regime in Kigali ”. Even if Barayagwiza is further proving his credentials as an alleged master manipulator, he does have certain arguments to back his claim: In November 1999, the ICTR Appeals Court ordered his release on the grounds that his rights were continually violated during initial detention and transfer to Arusha, but the Court reversed its decision after the Rwandan government suspended its cooperation with the Tribunal and the Prosecutor presented “ new facts ”. Barayagwiza also complains that two of his judges met in Kigali in August with the current Rwandan president, Paul Kagame. Perhaps the extremity of what happened in Rwanda, and the fact that the accused had links to former government and militias, means they are already condemned in most people’s eyes. The challenge for the Tribunal is to establish their individual responsibility for what happened, in a way that will not only set a legal precedent but also be seen as a genuine attempt to establish the truth about what happened in Rwanda in 1994. JC/FH (ME%1122e)