The Appeals Chamber of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda on 18 January concluded hearings in the case of three media executives who were convicted for genocide in 2003.
Ferdinand Nahimana, founder of the Radio Télévision des Mille Collines (RTLM), Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, high ranking board member of the Comité d’initiative of the RTLM and founding member of the Coalition for the Defence of Republic (CDR), and Hassan Ngeze, also a founding member of CDR and editor of Kangura newspaper, were convicted for genocide, incitement to genocide, conspiracy, and extermination and persecution as crimes against humanity. On 3 December 2003 Nahimana, and Ngeze were sentenced to life imprisonment and Barayagwiza was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment. All three appealed their conviction.
The Appeals Chamber, composed of Judges Fausto Pocar, presiding, Mohamed Shahabuddeen, Mehmet Güney, Andrésia Vaz, and Theodor Meron held three days of hearings in Arusha to hear evidence from a witness and oral arguments from counsel for the convicts and from the Prosecutor.
All the Defence teams requested that the convictions be annulled. In the case of Nahimana the Defence argued that the Prosecutor’s contention of conspiracy is not founded, that the definition of incitement has been expanded beyond the existing international law applicable in 1994 and that the conviction entered by the trial chamber was based on a single element brought forward by a contested expert witness.
Ngeze’s defence challenged all five convictions against him arguing one of the main witnesses recanted his statement, and that he was convicted of incitement to commit genocide based on material published outside the temporal jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
As for Barayagwiza the Defence called for the annulment of the judgment on the grounds that the Tribunal lacked independence and impartiality; his trial was held in absentia which is prohibited by international law and that Barayagwiza was represented by incompetent and negligent counsel. Furthermore Counsel argued that the Prosecutor failed to fulfill the test for superior responsibility.
The Prosecution on its part addressed the comments brought forth by defence counsel. Firstly it addressed the issue of trial in absentia regarding Barayagwiza's case, stating that the appellant could not have been forcibly brought to court as that would have violated his rights. The Prosecution also argued that incitement was synonymous with instigation, and that for the crime of incitement to commit genocide, there is no actual need for the crime to occur. Following this line it was argued that hate speech can per se constitute persecution because such speech denies a fundamental right - the right to equality.