ARUSHA 14 May 2002 (Internews) The trial for three men accused of using their respective media to incite genocide in Rwanda resumed yesterday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) with the prosecution presenting a witness who is an expert in Rwanda’s print media.
The Media Trial was adjourned in March to facilitate the hearing of an alternate trial.
The expert witness, Marcel Kabanda, is a Paris-based Rwandan historian. He is the second expert witness in the trial against Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze, all of whom have denied charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Nahimana is alleged to have been a director of Radio Television Libres Des Mille Collines (RTLM), which the prosecution claims broadcast hate messages against ethnic Tutsi. Barayagwiza was a co-founder of the RTLM and Ngeze is a former owner and editor of an alleged Hutu extremist newspaper, ‘Kangura’.
Kabanda holds a doctorate degree from the University of Paris. His doctorate thesis was on ‘The Economy of Salt between 1850 and 1920 in Rwanda.’ After completing his doctorate studies, Kabanda participated in research that led to the publication ‘Les Media du Genocide (The Media of the Genocide)’, co-authored by him and three others. He is currently a consultant with United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Before Kabanda begun his testimony, his status as an expert was hotly contested by counsel for the three defendants, who argued that Kabanda has no experience or training in the media and is therefore not qualified to make any assessments on the Rwandan print media.
“Have you ever worked for a newspaper?” John Floyd of the United States, lead counsel for Ngeze, asked, “No,” Kabanda responded.
“Have you ever edited or participated in the economic aspects of publishing a newspaper?” the attorney went on. “No, I have had no experience in the media,” Kabanda answered.
“The man doesn’t know anything about media … there are times things really get ridiculous, is there a known technological area in history called Rwanda print media and is this the person to speak about it?” Floyd asked the chamber.
In defense of his expertise, Kabanda maintained that he not only participated in researching the role of the media in Rwanda in 1995 as subsequently depicted in Les Media du Genocide, but that he continues to research the same topic to date. Kabanda has also written an independent report on Kangura newspaper for the purposes of the trial.
Floyd pointed out that Kabanda is ethnic Tutsi and lost almost his entire family in the genocide, a situation that could encourage biased evidence, adding that the witness has not even lived in Rwanda consistently since 1973.
“The reason why you have come here to testify is that you are the designated hatchet man aimed at getting at Hassan Ngeze, isn’t that the truth?” Floyd demanded.
“If I was brought here by the prosecution to be a hatchet man that would be an insult not only to this tribunal but to me,” Kabanda told the attorney.
Nahimana’s lead counsel, Jean Marie Biju-Duval of France, noted that with the exception of Les Media du Genocide and the subsequent report written for purposes of the trial, Kabanda has not participated in any other media-related research.
“I do not need to go any further in the demonstration of the incompetence of Mr. Kabanda as an expert as this has been amply demonstrated by Mr. Kabanda himself,” Biju-Duval said.
The Media trial began in October 2000. The prosecution is expected to complete their case after Kabanda’s testimony as well as that of two more expert witnesses; Alison Des Forges and Jean-Pierre Chrétien.
The trial is held 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.