Arusha, 27 November 2007 (FH) - In a busy week for the Court of Appeals of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), a decision is expected wednesday on the Media Affair, involving three influential Rwandan media heads.   

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Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze received life imprisonment and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza was handed a sentence of 35 years in prison in December 2003 at the conclusion of their original trial. Baryagwiza and Nahimana were leaders of Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), the radio station which famously diffused anti-Tutsi hate messages leading up to and during the 1994 genocide. Ngeze was editor-in-chief of the newspaper Kangura, which published propagandistic anti-Tutsi rhetoric during the same period.
Found guilty of concerted planning of genocide, genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and extermination and persecution as crimes against humanity, all three men appealed the court's decision for a variety of reasons.
Barayagwiza, 57, a former diplomat, has in particular protested a series of odd circumstances that led to his prolonged pre-trial detainment. Arrested in Cameroon in March 1996, he spent six months in custody before Cameroonian judges announced he would be released because he was no longer sought by the ICTR. However, a new ICTR prosecutor on the case blocked that release, and he spent an additional nine months in prison before being transferred to the ICTR detention center in Arusha.
In November 1999, the ICTR Court of Appeals ordered him again released and all charges against him dropped, ruling that he was being illegally detained. Only after a Rwandan uproar was his release cancelled. Barayagwiza refused to attend his original trial, stating that the ICTR was being manipulated by the Rwandan government.
During the appeal, in January 2007, Barayagwiza's new attorney Peter Herbert (UK) pointed out 52 separate errors he had found in the original court's judgment, and stated his position that the prosecutor had not adequately demonstrated that Barayagwiza had "any actual control" over material disseminated by RTLM's on-air journalists.
The former history professor Nahimana, 57, stated during the appeal that he too was not "either the director or one of the leaders of RTLM." Acknowledging that genocide did occur in Rwanda in 1994, something many defendants still deny, Nahimana expressed sadness over hate messages he heard on RTLM from April to July of that year. "That radio was never mine."
Unlike his co-defendants, Ngeze, 46, was an uneducated, self-described "street kid" who rose up through the journalistic ranks to run his own newspaper. Though difficult to deny the hate messages in his newspaper, especially the famous "Hutu Ten Commandments" article of December 1990, questions as to whether some of his articles were admissible were raised by the American organization, Open Society Justice Initiative (OSI), concerned with freedom of the press issues. In accordance with a dozen similar organizations from around the world, OSI filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) claim, accepted by the appellate court and concerning several perceived discrepancies in the original court's judgment.
The organization particularly found fault with the court's decision to allow into evidence Ngeze's articles originally published before 1994. A statute limits the ICTR's jurisdiction over the consideration of facts pertaining to the preparation of the genocidal events to the period of 1 January 1994 and later.
In addition to the admission of pre-1994 Kangura articles, OSI argued that the ICTR overstepped its bounds in finding a direct, causal relationship between hate speech and incitement to genocide. According to the organization, since hate speech does not always lead to genocide, the Court of Appeals is obligated to distinguish that only hate speech which leads to violent actions should constitute incitement to genocide.
At least one defendant is optimistic that the case will be overturned. Ngeze has reportedly packed his bags at the detention center and is looking forward to getting married upon his release. It remains to be seen if a honeymoon is in his future.

© Hirondelle News Agency