Global Policy Forum

ICTR/Media Trial: Prosecution Witness


By Mary Kimani

June 25, 2001

A witness who was to testify for the prosecution in the so- called "Media Trial" at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) today declined to take the stand saying he had reconsidered doing so "after deep prayers." The witness -- identified only as AAW -- was to have testified against Hassan Ngeze, the owner and editor of Kangura newspaper, Ferdinand Nahimana and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, both founding members of Radio Television Libre Des Mille Collines (RTLM). The three allegedly used their respective media to incite ethnic Hutu to kill ethnic Tutsi during the April-June 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Stephen Rapp of the United States of America, prosecution representative, said AAW, who is a Muslim, told them that after deep prayer he was convinced that he should not testify before the court.

Following AAW's stand, the prosecution put the witness at the disposal of the defense. According to ICTR regulations, the defense may have access to a prosecution witness who has been withdrawn by the prosecution or has refused to testify, as in the case of AAW. Rapp said if AAW chooses to testify for the defense, he will be considered a "hostile witness" and the prosecution will reserve the right to cross-examine him on any inconsistencies that may arise between his statement and his testimony.

John Floyd of the US, lead counsel for Ngeze, asked the court to direct that the witness remain in Arusha pending consultations with his client on whether they wish to call AAW as a defense witness. Floyd voiced his concern that AAW may return to Brussels on a flight Arusha today.

Judge Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding) directed Floyd to contact the witness protection unit over the issue, as AAW no longer has witness status. She said the protection unit has no reason to keep him in Arusha.

The Media Trial resumes next Tuesday when the next prosecution witness will be presented. The trial is before Trial Chamber I of the ICTR, comprising Judges Pillay, Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka De Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka.

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