The joint trial of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze, known as "The Media Case", opened before Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha today.
In his opening statement to the Chamber (composed of Judge Navanethem Pillay (South Africa), President of the ICTR, presiding, Judge Erik Møse (Norway) and Judge Asoka de Zoysa Gunarwardana (Sri Lanka) the Deputy Prosecutor, Mr. Bernard Muna compared the anti-Tutsi messages of the Rwandan media in 1994 to those of the Nazi propagandists during the Second World War.
Muna said however that it was not the Hutu people who were on trial today but three individuals who had used, or rather misused, the media to further the aims of the genocide.
The three accused are each charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide direct and public incitement to commit genocide and complicity in genocide. Ngeze also faces one count of crime against humanity (murder) while Barayagwiza faces two counts of violations of the of the 1949 Geneva Conventions for the Protection of War Victims.
At the start of the trial the Chamber was told by defence counsel that Barayagwiza had decided not to attend the trial on the basis that he felt he would not have a fair trial. For his part Ngeze refused to enter the courtroom because the Tribunal had refused to translate all 71 issues of the newspaper Kangura, of which he had been the editor, into French or English. The President had earlier ruled that the Tribunal did not have the resources to translate all 71 issues of the newspaper, but that the relevant passages would be translated.
The President asked counsel to convey to their respective clients that the Tribunal firmly held that they were innocent unless and until the Prosecutor proved otherwise beyond reasonable doubt. She further noted that, under the Statute of the Tribunal, the accused were entitled to attend hearings in their trial and, if necessary, the Tribunal could compel their attendance.