Arusha, November 30, 2001 (FH) - A senior prison officer called by prosecution on Friday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that detainee Hassan Ngeze had been sanctioned for sending an allegedly intimidating letter to genocide convict and fellow detainee Omar Serushago. Serushago testified against Ngeze earlier this month, saying they had committed crimes together in the northwest Rwandan region of Gisenyi, that Ngeze had been a member of a death squad, and that he played a leading role in preparing the genocide of 1994.

2 min 55Approximate reading time

Serushago is a self-confessed informer for the Prosecution, who had a hand in Ngeze's arrest. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to genocide. At the beginning of his testimony, on November 15th, Serushago told the court he had received a letter from Ngeze, threatening him against testifying. He said it had been brought to him last August 17th by a Tanzanian imam who conducted Moslem prayers in the United Nations Detention Facility (UNDF). Both Serushago and Ngeze are Moslem. The court admitted the letter into evidence, but only conditionally. Prosecutors asked the Chamber to investigate the matter further by calling the imam and/or UNDF Deputy Commanding Officer Claude Bouchard of Canada, who had written a report on the incident. The imam declined to appear. However, Bouchard appeared in court on Friday morning. Bouchard said he had been informed about the letter by another UNDF security officer, Joseph Jairo, who had been told by Serushago. Serushago said the letter had been delivered by the imam, who said it was from Ngeze. Bouchard told the court he had immediately summoned the imam, and that he had also called UNDF Commanding Officer Saidou Guindou of Mali. "The imam told me that he had received this letter from Ngeze's hands," said Bouchard. "He said he thought it was a spiritual message to give to Serushago. " The imam was immediately fired. Bouchard said sanctions were imposed on Ngeze, but were lifted after eight days on an order from the ICTR Registry. Hearsay?Ngeze's lawyer John Floyd sought to show that Bouchard's evidence was unreliable because based on "four or five levels of hearsay", and that the imam had only said what he said because he felt intimidated. The imam was interviewed by Guindo, in the presence of Bouchard, Jairo and Serushago. "There were four of you in this interview and each one had a gun but the imam, right?" Floyd fired at the witness. "Actually, none of us had a gun," replied Bouchard, "and I think the imam was not that stressed. ""Did he know he was about to lose his job?" Floyd persisted. Bouchard maintained that the imam was not under duress, but later admitted: "I assume when you are found breaching the rules, and you are caught on the spot, that there must be a certain level of stress. "Floyd also suggested that Bouchard might be mistaken because he (a French Canadian) and the imam (a Swahili speaking Tanzanian) could only communicate in "broken English". Bouchard, who answered most of Floyd's questions in English, said that on the contrary the two could understand each other well. Floyd persisted nonetheless: "Isn't it possible that hesaid this letter is FOR Hassan Ngeze and not FROM Ngeze?" Floyd asked, smiling broadly. "Our children will meet"Floyd argued that the letter's contents were not in any case of an intimidating nature. Serushago told the court it was, and read out extracts. One part reads:“I am writing to you this letter to remind you that our life on this earth is very short. I have read your statement which you gave to the Prosecutor on July 9th and July 11th. I was especially shocked by the way you created false evidence against me and for this reason I have decided to prepare a long prayer for you. " The letter also says that: "Even if you create falseevidence, it will not be long before it is realized that your false testimony will not have benefited you. Remember that even if we do not meet, our children will meet. ”Serushago also told the court the letter contained personal details and references that only Ngeze would know. Ngeze is former editor of Kangura newspaper in Rwanda. He is on trial with two other people accused of using the media to incite Hutus against Tutsis, before and during the 1994 genocide. The other two are Ferdinand Nahimana, a founder and alleged former director of "hate radio" RTLM; and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a former politician and RTLM board member. All three have pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide, incitement and crimes against humanity. JC/DO/FH (ME1130e)