Arusha, May 7, 2003 (FH) - Dr Helmut Strizek, an expert witness for Ferdinand Nahimana, had his credibility as an impartial researcher questioned Wednesday by the prosecution. Strizek was giving testimony for the third day at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), where Nahimana and two others are standing trial for their roles in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

2 min 4Approximate reading time

Nahimana was a former university professor and foundermember of Radio télévision libre de mille collines (RTLM). Counsel for the prosecution, Simone Monasebian, continued her cross examination of the witness by questioning the credibility of his sources in compiling material for publication. She accused the witness of being biased and only using information that dirtied the image of the current government in Rwanda. The prosecutor then offered to show the witness a letter he had written to Human Rights Watch in which he requested for information that ‘only showed Rwanda in a negative light'. “It is surprising that you have that information”, the witness answered. “I asked for information on Rwanda and was told to wait until Allison des Forges becomes available”. The prosecutor also pointed out many flaws in the witness's testimony. At one point, the prosecutor asked Dr. Strizek whether he had any knowledge of Nahimana having been the chief ideologue of the RTLM, to which the witness replied in the negative. Monasebian then read a translated version of a passage in Dr. Strizek's book originally written in German. In the book, the author explicitly names the accused as the “ideological mentor of the radio station”. From then on the prosecutor showed, point by point, that the witness's testimony was the opposite of what had been presented before the tribunal as evidence for the defence. The witness in his publications also refused to equate the genocide in Rwanda and that of the Jews during World War II, saying that they were incomparable. It was only after being confronted with broadcasts of RTLM and similar utterances that came to light during the Nuremburg trials that the witness agreed that it was “false and dangerous propaganda”. The prosecution then asked Dr. Strizek whether it was not “scapegoating and marginalising a minority by calling Jews “blood suckers” during the world war, and an RTLM broadcast in December 1993 which asserted that “Tutsis are the ones who have all the riches”. When the witness refused to comment, Monasebian turned to the bench and protested to the chamber, saying; “This is an expert witness, he should answer!” The witness then replied in the affirmative when ordered by the tribunal to answer. The proceedings were also marred by arguments between Monasebian and Diana Ellis, Nahimana'cocounsel, and on many occasions had to be called to order by the president of trial Chamber One, Navanethem Pillay,Ferdinand Nahimana's trial is grouped together in what has been dubbed as the “media trial”, in which Hassan Ngeze, owner and editorinchief of “Kangura” newspaper, and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, a boardmember of RTLM have pleaded not guilty to inciting genocide through the media. Barayagwiza has boycotted the proceedings right from the beginning, complaining that the tribunal is “manipulated by the Rwandan government. The trial continues on Thursday morning. Judge Pillay is assisted by Asoka de Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka, and Erik Møse from Norway in Chamber One. KN/CE/FH(ME'0507e)