Arusha, December 8, 2003 (FH) – The defence teams in the just concluded “Media trial” are indignant over the judgment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which convicted their clients on Wednesday. Ferdinand Nahimana, a historian and one of the founders of the Radio télévision libre de mille collines (RTLM) that in 1994 incited the genocide against Tutsis and massacres that targeted Hutu members of the opposition, was sentenced together with the “self-made man” Hassan Ngeze, to life in prison.

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Ngeze was the owner and editor-in-chief of the extremist publication, Kangura. They were found guilty of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity (extermination and persecution). Also found guilty on the same counts, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, also a co-founder of RTLM, had his sentence reduced because his rights had been “violated” during his arrest and transfer to Arusha. He was sentenced to 35 years, but the time spent in detention will also be deducted from this sentence. He will thus spend 27 years in jail. “A unique judgment”In a press release, Nahimana's lead counsel, Jean-Marie Biju-Duval, called it a “singular judgment which, in order to establish the facts, begins by rejecting the testimonies of direct witnesses”. The tribunal did not find the testimonies of two former RTLM journalists, the Belgian Georges Ruggiu and Valerie Bemeriki for Rwanda to be credible. It also “simply” rejected Nahimana's version of events. The judges ruled that Nahimana was “responsible for the RTLM's editorial line” and that he “did nothing to stop the radio from becoming a machine for war and genocide”. “Founder of the radio station, among others, member of its board directors, Ferdinand Nahimana never exercised any management responsibilities, never expressed any opinion in 1994 and cut all ties with the station at the very beginning of the massacres, before its broadcasts became criminal”, Biju-Duval declared. He pointed out that Nahimana first took refuge at the French embassy, then went on to Burundi, before ending up in Tunisia. “It does not matter, again it is he, always he who, according to the judges, managed the RTLM”, he said. He continued that in 1994, RTLM was, “under the management of its acting director, Phocas Habimana, and its editor-in-chief, Gaspard Gahigi, and acting under the permanent control of the army, from which it received all instructions, finance and equipment”. Habimana and Gahigi are both believed to be dead. “Yet no act, no word, no speech, links Ferdinand Nahimana directly and personally to the genocide and crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda during the months of April through July 1994. The trial clearly showed this. The judgment does not contest it”, complained the French lawyer. It is his view that his client was convicted “so that ‘radio genocide' ends up with a criminal made to measure, a media scapegoat, an offender of international dimensions, presented as such to world opinion”. On the other hand, Hassan Ngeze's lawyer, John Floyd from the USA said that the judgment was “the worst decision ever in terms of international justice. I have never seen any thing like this in my thirty years of practice”, hesaid. Both he and Biju-Duval intend to appeal. Freedom of expression?“This judgment is a scandal”, said another of Ngeze's co-counsel, Rene Martel from Canada. “My client only exercised his freedom of expression in a war situation. There was Radio Muhabura and publications close to the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF)”, explained Martel. According to him, Kangura was reacting to messages from that radio and some pro-RPF newspapers. The judgment came to the conclusion that ”articles in Kangura conveyed contempt and hatred for the Tutsi ethnic group and for Tutsi women in particular whom the publication qualified them as femmes fatales”. The publication notably published the “Hutu ten commandments” which described Tutsis as oppressors who wanted to eliminate Hutus”, the judgment said. “Kangura was not the source of those ten commandments”, retorted Martel, they had been in existence for a long time”. The chamber also came to the conclusion that Hassan Ngeze, through Kangura, “poisoned” the minds ofreaders and “caused the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians,”A tribunal “in chains”The third accused, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, declared in a press statement that that he had been “judged and condemned by a tribunal in chains”. Barayagwiza has boycotted proceedings of the trial ever since it started in October 2000, alleging that the Arusha tribunal was being manipulated by the Rwandan government. “The verdict confirms that the tribunal is just a machine to convict and not an instrument of international justice”, said Barayagwiza. He continued that “it has become evident that its objective is not to judge those responsible for crimes, regardless of their ethnic group, but to hunt Hutu leaders, pretend to judge them and condemn them to such heavy sentencesthat they would forever be excluded from power”. Barayagwiza was represented by a tribunal-appointed counsel, Giacomo Barletta Caldarera who has also said that he would appeal. On top of his role in RTLM, Barayagwiza together with Hassan Ngeze, was one of the founders of the radical anti-Tutsi political party, the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic (CDR). The judgment points out that they supplied arms to the party's militia, the Impuzamugambi, supervised roadblocks where Tutsis were killed. KN/ER/CE/FH (ME'1208e)