ARUSHA (Internews) Alfred Pognon of Benin, co-counsel for genocide suspect Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, today claimed before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the allegedly Hutu extremist Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) did not have an armed militia wing, contrary to testimony by an expert witness testifying for the prosecution in the so-called “Media Trial.”
Pognon made the claim when he cross-examined Alison Des Forges, Human Rights Watch Advisor and expert in Rwandan history, who has been testifying since 20 May.
To challenge Des Forges’ characterization of CDR, the attorney said that ‘Impuzamugambi’, the name used to describe CDR’s youth wing, was not the name of a militia group but the Kinyarwanda name of the party. He stated that the CDR was established in 1992 and only formed a youth wing in 1993.
“It did not have access to arms as other militia wings of the bigger parties such as MRND [Movement of Republic for National Development] and the MDR [Republican Movement for Democracy], the lawyer said.
The Media Trial is against Barayagwiza, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze. Barayagwiza and Nahimana are both founding members of Radio Television Libre Des Mille Collines (RTLM) and Ngeze was the owner and editor of ‘Kangura’, an alleged anti-Tutsi newspaper. All three have denied using their respective media to incite genocide.
The prosecution alleges that in addition to using the RTLM to incite ethnic hatred, Barayagwiza, as a senior CDR official, was responsible for the distribution of weapons to the party’s militia wing. The weapons were allegedly used to kill ethnic Tutsi.
Barayagwiza has boycotted court since the trial began in October 2000, claiming that he will not receive a fair trial. He has refused to communicate with Pognon and Giacomo Caldarera of Italy, his lead counsel, who the tribunal appointed for him after he ordered his lawyers of choice to stop representing him.
Pognon’s cross-examination dwelt at length on the contribution of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) to the events in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994. He suggested to Des Forges that the RPF army was armed while the CDR was not, and hence the CDR was not in a position to cause any violence.
“I do not agree with counsel Pognon’s assertion that CDR was not armed,” Des Forges maintained.
Des Forges continues to testify before Trial Chamber I of the ICTR, comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka De Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka.