Arusha, July 08, 2002 (FH) - American human rights activist and expert witness in the so-called media trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Alison Des Forges, is a biased "professional witness", co-counsel for genocide suspect Ferdinand Nahimana, Diana Ellis, of the UK told court on Monday. Des Forges was testifying at the resumption of her testimony which was cut short in May by the adjournment of the case.

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The media trial groups three individuals accused of having used the media in Rwanda to incite and fuel the 1994 genocide. The three are: Ferdinand Nahimana, a founder and alleged former director of Radio-télévision libre des Mille collines (RTLM); Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a former politician and RTLM board member; and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of newspaper "Kangura". The three are charged with several counts of genocide, public incitement to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. An estimated one million Tutsi and moderate Hutu's were killed in the 1994 genocide according to an official census by the government of Rwanda. "You are biased, you are an acchirondellenew_complete", said Ellis. "You haven't come here to give independent opinion", she added. Ellis listed about six occasions on which Des Forges had testified in connection with the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. "I'm qualified by this tribunal as an expert witness", responded Des Forges, "I came here to give, to the best of my knowledge, an account of what happened in Rwanda. " She also vehemently objected to being called a "professional witness". "I have never been paid for my testimony", she said. Des Forges is a researcher for American based human rights organisation, Human Rights Watch. She authored a book on the 1994 genocide titled: 'Leave none to tell the story'. She has, since the early 1990's, written several reports on Rwanda. Ellis also challenged Des Forges for not detailing the link between economic hardships in Rwanda before and during 1994 to the genocide in her expert report. "We are all concerned how it came about that many people lost their lives after April 6th, 1994. " said Ellis. "Dire economic hardships that faced people at that time explain why", she added. Des Forges said that she wouldn't characterise economic hardships in Rwanda then as "dire". In any case, she said, "there are many situations of dire poverty in the world that don't result in genocide. "Des Forges also dismissed allegations from Ellis that after her (Des Forges) testimony in chief in May, she had "regular conversations with members of the prosecution team". "I did not discuss my testimony with any one", said Des Forges. Des Forges further denied claims by Ellis that she had "connections" with the US government. Ellis suggested that Des Forges' contacts in the US State Department were an indication that she had been working for the US government. "Allow me to smile on that one", said Des Forges. "I was in fact received with considerable resistance. I was a thorn in the side of the US government", she added. The trial is before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR, composed of Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (Presiding), Erik Møse of Norway and Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka. GG/JA/FH(ME-0708e)