2 min 34Approximate reading time

Arusha, January 19 2007 (FH) – At the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, this past week (ICTR) has been marked by hearings in appeal. The judges have heard the pleadings in the Media’s and in Muhimana’s cases and have issued a judgment in the trial of Ndindabahizi. Emmanuel Ndindabahizi, 57, was the Finance Minister in the interim government in power during the 1994 genocide. On July 15 2004, he was condemned to life imprisonment for participation in the genocide. The judgment issued last Tuesday by the Appeals chamber slightly reviews the factual and judicial conclusions of the court of first instance but maintains the verdict of guilty and the prison sentence. Of the 27 defendants the ICTR has sentenced to prison terms until today, Ndindabahizi is the 12th to receive life imprisonment. Since its creation in 1994, the tribunal has pronounced 32 judgments, 5 of which of acquittal. 17 others have been appealed. Shortly after the reading of the judgment, the Appeals chamber opened the hearings in the trial of the « Hate Media » which lasted three days. Three plaintiffs, Ferdinand Nahimana, historian, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, magistrate and Hassan Ngeze, self-taught journalist, were asking for the cancellation of the verdict of guilty issued on December 3 2003. Nahimana, 57, and Ngeze, 46, have been condemned to life imprisonment and Barayagwiza, 57, to 35 years in jail. Nahimana and Baragwiza used to belong to the Initiative committee of the Thousand Hills Independent Radio and Television (RTLM), which aired incitements to commit genocide. Ngeze was the director and chief editor of the Hutu radical paper Kangura. Nahimana adressed the court and said that he had collaborated in funding the RTLM so as « to promote liberty of expression in a modern democracy ». He added that the radio had veered off course after April 6 1994 and stressed that, nevertheless, he had never been in the executive committee of the radio as alleged by the prosecutor. The latter has asked for the confirmation of the judgment and of the sentence. Hassan Ngeze and Barayagwiza have pleaded their innocence too. Ngeze, a whimsical man, surprised the court by suggesting that, for the sake of the Rwandan reconciliation, the international community should reject the report of the French anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière which connects the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and some of his collaborators to the attack against his predecessor, Juvénal Habyarimana. Barayagwiza expressed his doubts concerning the equity of the ICTR and explained at length why he had boycotted his first instance trial. « My intention was not to boycott justice but to protest against injustice and to not support the parody of trial we were headed to ». Finally, Barayagwiza asked the judges to cancel « a verdict based on the sole version of the prosecution ». Mika Muhimana, a former town councilor, appeared before the Appeals Court on Monday. He was objecting to the condemnation to life imprisonment issued against him on April 28 2005. The 46 year old appellant was found guilty of the massacre of Tutsis and of rapes. Besides the Appeals court, the chambers of first instance have been busy as well. One of them has heard the parties in the case of Joseph Nzabirinda, a former youth organizer who pleaded guilty back in December. Wednesday’s hearing was dedicated to the presentation of the elements the chamber will have to consider to determine the verdict. Nzabirinda, 50, and the prosecutor have suggested the judges to settle on a sentence ranging between five and eight years in prison. However, the chamber is not bound to follow their recommendation. As in December, Nzabirinda has expressed his profound remorse and asked for forgiveness for having helped and supported by omission, as an « approving spectator », two murders committed in Sahera, his native sector located near Butare (south). The debates in Militaries I closed Friday at noon. The trial of the four high-ranking Rwandan militaries had opened in April 2002. For about 400 days, 80 persons have testified for the prosecution and 150 for the defense. The pleadings are scheduled in May and the verdict is expected before the end of the year. AT/PB/MG © Hirondelle News Agency