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WITNESS SAYS NAHIMANA WAS DRIVING FORCE BEHIND KILLER RADIO

Arusha, October 24th, 2000 (FH) - A witness told the International CriminalTribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday that the radio station RadioTélévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) had had a direct impact on thespread of hatred and killings during the Rwandan genocide, and that ICTRdetainee Ferdinand Nahimana had appeared to be the radio's driving force. "To put it crudely, the radio killed", Swiss journalist and lawyerPhilippe Dahinden told the court.

4 min 2Approximate reading time

He was testifying as the firstprosecution witness in the trial of three suspects linked to media whichallegedly incited Hutus to kill Tutsis during the genocide. They areNahimana, who was director of RTLM, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, a formerpolitician and RTLM founder member, and Hassan Ngeze, who was editor of thenewspaper Kangura. Dahinden told the court how he had first visited Rwanda in 1991 for theGeneva-based International Commission of Jurists, then again in January1993 as part of an international human rights commission of inquiry and inAugust 1993 for press freedom group Reporters sans Frontières (RSF). InMay 1994, at the height of the genocide, he reported in Rwanda for Swisstelevision, managing to enter both the zones controlled by RwandanPatriotic Front (RPF) Tutsi guerillas and the pro-Hutu interim government. Dahinden said that in the government-controlled zone, there wereroadblocks everywhere, manned by militias of the former single party MRND(pro-Hutu) and of Barayagwiza's CDR party (also pro-Hutu). These militiaswere singling out ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates and killing them. "Itwas like a spider's web or a net throughout the whole zone," he told thecourt, "and from which it was impossible to escape. ""What struck me was that the people manning the roadblocks all had radios,"Dahinden continued, "and they were listening to RTLM. It was easy to knowthat, because RTLM often played Zairean music. It was a completelydifferent type of music from that broadcast by Radio Rwanda [officialstate-radio]. "The witness had earlier explained how RTLM broadcast "political news", howits shareholders were mainly from the MRND and CDR parties and how RTLM wasbroadcasting names of people to be killed, often indicating their hidingplaces. Dahinden said he had learned this from human rights activists anddiplomats in Rwanda, with whom he had lengthy telephone contact from April6th, when the shooting down of ex-president Juvénal Habyarimana's 'planesparked the massacres. He said he had then been able to verify theinformation from himself whilst in Rwanda during the genocide. Nahimana and BarayagwizaDahinden said he had met Nahimana for the first time in 1991 whilst inRwanda monitoring trials of civilians who had been accused of complicitywith the RPF. At the time, Nahimana was head of the state media bodyORINFOR (official radio and written press). The witness said he had hadcause to complain about the radio's coverage of these trials because itpresented the suspects as if they had already been convicted. He said theradio reports also helped fuel a climate in which the suspects' defencelawyers were receiving death threats. The witness said that while in Rwanda in January 1993 with a human rightsinvestigation, it emerged that Radio Rwanda broadcasts had helped fuelmassacres of Tutsis in Bugesera (south of Kigali) in early 1992. Nahimanawas subsequently removed from the directorship of ORINFOR, followingpressure from the international community. Dahinden said that on thatvisit, he had also met an imprisoned journalist, Janvier Afrika, whodescribed how president Habyarimana and his entourage, known as the"Akazu", were involved in organizing massacres. Dahinden said JanvierAfrika had named Nahimana as part of the Akazu's so-called "Zero Network"death squad. Dahinden told the court that he met Nahimana again in August 1993, andthat the accused was involved with a new radio station, RTLM. In aninterview, filmed by the witness, Nahimana defended his decisions atORINFOR, saying that he had done his duty and that it was the media's roleto "warn" the population of likely threats in time of war. As an investigator for RSF, Dahinden said he had been particularlyinterested in RTLM. He said the Minister of Information at the time,Faustin Rucogoza of the MDR party (opposition), described it as a "pirateradio" because it did not have a licence although it was alreadybroadcasting. Dahinden said Nahimana had tried to explain that RTLM wasonly doing "technical tests" but the minister was worried because it hadalready started broadcasting political commentaries. Dahinden said he had interviewed RTLM editor Gaspard Gahigi and asked whowas behind the radio. Gahigi, he said, gave three names: Nahimana,Barayagwiza and Félicien Kabuga, who was one of Rwanda's richestbusinessmen. The witness said Gahigi described RTLM as commercial, modernand apolitical, but admitted that MRND and CDR members held most of theshares. Gahigi claimed that any party could pay to have slots on the newradio. According to Dahinden, Nahimana described RTLM as for"entertainment, appealing to young people". Dahinden told the court that he had met Nahimana again in June 1994 inSwitzerland, where the witness was trying to organize through the Rwandanembassy an interview with the interim president, Théodore Sindikubwabo. Sindikubwabo was passing through Switzerland on his way to an Organizationof African Unity (OAU) summit in Tunis. On that occasion, the embassysuggested he could meet instead with Nahimana, who was travelling with thepresident. Dahinden said he met briefly with Nahimana on June 11th. On June 15th, thewitness again waited in a Geneva hotel for an interview with the interimpresident, who was returning from Tunis. "It was Ferdinand Nahimana whocame," the witness told the court. "He told me he would consult with thepresident but then informed me that the president was too tired and tooill. " Instead, Nahimana proposed that Dahinden speak with himself andJean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who had also been with the president to Tunis. Defence raised numerous, and often vociferous objections in the course ofthe testimony, saying Dahinden should have been called as an expert and notas a lay witness, that some of the testimony was therefore inadmissible andthat documents and tapes had not been submitted or not been submitted ingood time. Ngeze's American lawyer John Floyd called the evidence"irrelevant and prejudicial" and even called at one point for the wholetestimony to be "scrapped". Defence is due to cross-question the witnessWednesday afternoon. Barayagwiza and Ngeze remained absent from the courtroom. Barayagwizaannounced yesterday that he was boycotting the trial because he believed itwould not be fair, and that he had asked his lawyers to do the same. Ngezeis protesting against ICTR translations of articles from Kangura which hesays are inaccurate and unfair. Barayagwiza's lawyers attended Tuesday'scourt session, but remained silent. They are awaiting a decision from thecourt on what should now be their role, if any. JC/FH (ME%1024e)

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