ARUSHA (Internews) John Floyd of the United States, defense counsel for genocide suspect Hassan Ngeze, today told judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that 1994 events in Rwanda proved the accuracy of what his client wrote in his newspaper, ‘Kangura.’
The attorney made the assertion when he cross-examined Alison Des Forges, a historian and Human Rights Watch Advisor. Des Forges continues to testify in the so-called “Media Trial” against Ngeze, Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza.
Ngeze was editor and owner of Kangura, an allegedly extremist newspaper, and both Nahimana and Barayagwiza are founding members of Radio Television Libre Des Mille Collines (RTLM), a radio station the prosecution alleges was used to incite genocide. All three have denied using their respective media to incite ethnic hatred and genocide.
Floyd attempted to discredit Des Forges’ testimony about Ngeze’s writing by pointing out several instances where what Ngeze wrote in Kangura came to pass. “He did his outmost best to stop what was going to happen,” Floyd stated, citing the publication of a story in Kangura in December 1993, warning of an impending attempt on the life of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.
Floyd told the court that Ngeze received information from Colonel Theoneste Lizinde about a plan by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) to kill Habyarimana and attempted to stop the plan by publishing the story. The RPF was then a mainly Tutsi army that invaded Rwanda in 1990. Des Forges testified earlier that Kangura, as well as other media, depicted many ethnic Tutsi as supporters and accomplices of the RPF and in so doing incited violence against them.
Floyd claimed that Ngeze attempted to inform General Romeo Dallaire, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR), but that UNAMIR failed to take the warning seriously. The lawyer also alleged that Ngeze tried to warn Habyarimana about the plan but failed to convince him.
Des Forges responded that she was not aware of Ngeze’s actions with respect to the alleged plan to kill Habyarimana and that they could be correct or inaccurate.
Floyd introduced a document from a former RPF soldier, Jean- Pierre Mugabe, in which Mugabe says the RPF killed Felicien Gatabazi, leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), because he did not support the plan to kill Habyarimana. In her main evidence, Des Forges criticized the RTLM for broadcasting this allegation and expanding it to suggest that this was part of a plan by the RPF to kill all Hutu.
“If Jean Pierre Mugabe, a Tutsi officer in the RPF, says that this is what happened who knows better, Mugabe or Des Forges?” Floyd challenged.
“If Des Forges has consulted the reports of investigations carried out jointly between the Rwandan authorities and the UNAMIR police force and found these to be reliable then I would say Des Forges,” the witness responded.
“Now aren’t you just biased in support of the Tutsi against the Hutu,” an angry Floyd asked Des Forges. “I think this is a difficult argument to make to me and that is why you have to shout to make it,” Des Forges answered.
Floyd then cited a book by a Tutsi businessman in exile, Valens Kajeguhakwa, and alleged that the writer explains his military assistance to the RPF. The attorney added that this example shows that Kangura’s denunciations of accomplices of the RPF were based on factual events and that several Tutsi were actively aiding the war effort.
Des Forges testified that she has not read Kajeguhakwa’s book and cannot confirm what the author wrote about assisting the RPF or about security measures he took for his own personal safety.
The cross-examination of Des Forges continues 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.