Arusha, November 28, 2001 (FH) - Belgian journalist and Central Africa specialist Colette Braeckmann on Wednesday began testifying for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) prosecution in the genocide trial of three Rwandan media personalities, with their defence lawyers raising objections within minutes. The row, as she started her testimony at the end of the day, surrounded the admission into evidence of a Belgian press agency (Belga) report of which she is not the author.

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The witness is a longstanding journalist and Africa expert for Belgian daily newspaper "Le Soir", author of several books on Rwanda and central Africa, and a renowned researcher on the region. Defence had already objected to this witness testimony earlier this month, saying that it was entirely based on hearsay and that they had not been provided with a proper witness statement. Prosecution is presenting her as a fact witness rather than an expert. "From the first minute, we are falling into the realm of total hearsay," objected René Martel, Canadian co-counsel for the accused Hassan Ngeze. "At each moment we are hearing opinions rather than facts. "Ngeze is former editor of the newspaper Kangura. He is being jointly tried with two other people linked to media that incited Hutus against Tutsis, before and during the 1994 genocide. The co-accused are Ferdinand Nahimana, a founder and alleged former director of "hate radio" RTLM; and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, former leader of the radical Hutu CDR party, advisor to the interim government in Rwanda and board member of RTLM. Barayagwiza has been boycotting the trial since it started in October 2000. Lawyers for all three accused argued that the Belga report, on a 1992 press conference by Nahimana in Brussels, should be thrown out, because Braeckmann was not the author and the author could have been called to testify directly. Martel accused the witness, in her work, of always using "the method of the ventriloquist". "It is never she who speaks, it isothers," he told the court. Braeckmann had previously told the court that she was present at Nahimana's press conference on March 18th, 1992, and that she had "probably" written her own article which she could find "easily" if asked by prosecution. She said she had kept the Belga report because it seemed a particularly good and accurate account of what Nahimana said. She explained that he had been under fire for the alleged role of state-owned Radio Rwanda (of which he was then director) in fuelling massacres of Tutsis in the central Rwandan region of Bugesera. Acting presiding judge Erik Mose of Norway said the court would announce its decision on Thursday morning when the trial resumes. Mose and Sri Lankan judge Asoka de Zoysa Guawardana are the only two judges sitting on the Bench this week, as presiding judge and ICTR President Navanathem Pillay of South Africa is in New York for a meeting of the UN GeneralAssembly. Already once this week, the two judges have disagreed on a decision, but nevertheless managed to reach a final compromise position. Serushago testimony admittedBraeckmann was preceded by the brief testimony of protected witness "AHB", who testified mainly against Barayagwiza. The previous witness, ICTR genocide convict Omar Serushago was on the stand for nearly two weeks. The court threw out a defence motion to have his testimony rejected on the grounds that it was full of contradictions and that he had been bought off by the Prosecutor. Serushago is a self-confessed killer and informer for the Prosecution, who assisted in the arrest of several ICTR genocide suspects in West Africa and Kenya, including Ngeze. He testified mainly against Ngeze and Barayagwiza. Serushago was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to genocide before the ICTR. Presiding judge in this case and Tribunal President Pillay told the UN on Monday she did not think this case would finish before the end of 2002. She said prosecution planned to close its case in May next year and that defence witnesses would then take the stand. Judge Pillay said prosecution had originally tendered a list of 97 witnesses, but that after various status conferences this had been reduced to less than 50, including four experts. Braeckmann is the 34th witness in this trial. Explaining the slowness of ICTR trials in general, Judge Pillay cited the complexity of procedures, the scattered location of witnesses, the interpreting of testimonies from the Rwandan language Kinyarwanda into ICTR official languages English and French, and the volume of documents that had to be translated into the two official languages. JC/AT/DO/FH (ME1128e)