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In This Section...

Panel 2: Journalism as Genocide
Thomas Kamilindi
Simone Monasebian & Charity Kagwi
Jean-Marie Biju Duval »
Question Period

Panel 2: Journalism as Genocide:  The Media Trial

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Jean-Marie Biju Duval, Defense counsel for Ferdinand Nahimana (convicted in medial trial)

Thierry Cruveilli: The office of prosecutor will never change. Mr. Biju Duval.

Jean-Marie Biju Duval

Jean Marie Biju Duval: Thank you very much.  First, I have to say just how pleased I am to be with this group of experts here today, witnesses, prosecutors, and that they have given the word now, that they have given the floor to the defense now, the defense of a man, not of a press organ.  And I see this as a sign, a sign of a commitment that you all have, that we all have to the defense of human rights.  I' m a lawyer.  The Bar of Paris, specialist in refugee law and criminal law, and since 1996 I was assigned by the international court to defend Ferdinand Nahimana.  Eight years later, December 3, 2003, as has been pointed out to you, he was sent to prison for life, convicted to prison for life.  The Court of Appeal is now dealing with it, and is yet to hand down it' s decision. 

So, in what was wrongly called, and I' ll come back to this, the trial of the media, or the media trial, the case of Ferdinand Nahimana is at least a symbolic one, in that he' s convicted solely on the basis of statements that he didn' t make himself, and also programs from journalists, from programs or from journalists of RTLM, and he was convicted also as a founder, a member of the board of this corporation, which owned the radio.  He was therefore convicted, and this key date as you can understand as from April 8, 1994, that he broke all contact with the radio station.  So we' re here therefore to look together critically at the role of the media, and also at the way in which international justice did, in fact, deal with the issue of incitement to genocide.  So it' s good that this question should be asked by the journalists themselves, journalists for whom the verification of sources, of information are major principles.  Major principles , otherwise we would have no journalism, rather we would have is instrumentalization of information, in other words propaganda.  The same applies to the legal system.  You have to check things impartially, you have to check the facts impartially, you have to apply the law strictly.  Now this means justice, but if you had instrumentalization of law, and of the courts. 

Jean-Marie Biju Duval

So let' s look together what the situation is that I can explain to you my dear friends that the genocide in Rwanda is something far too serious, far, far too serious to be just left to specialists.  All of us, each and every one of us, we' re all able directly to take an interest in this issue, and to go right back to the source of the information.  So announced as one of the most important trials of ICTR in my view, this did not meet the expectations or the hopes, which were set up at the beginning, either with respect to the events of 1994, or the role played by the media, nor as regards the application of principles, principles of law, in terms of international law, international justice since 1945, which have been implemented since 1945 since the Nuremberg Trial.  Let' s go back to the events themselves.  In 1945, the Nuremberg Trial did, in fact, bring together in one single trial a very significant number of Nazi leaders in the area of propaganda, and therefore it made it possible to have a consistent approach to the crimes, which were being prosecuted.  You can' t look at propaganda outside the context in which it' s actually offered, and the media trial should look at all the causes, which gave rise to this increase in passions, which created a push towards violence in people' s minds.  And this wasn' t, in fact, the case in Arusha.  This wasn' t done. 

I' ll give you an example.  One of the paradoxes of this trial, under which passions were unleashed is, in fact, the prohibition imposed by the judges in the Arusha.  There was prohibition on the defense to present evidence of the event, which was seen as triggering the genocide, namely the attack of April 6, 1994.  So therefore you have to consider the importance of words.  You have to recognize that, yes, it was necessary to prosecute.  It was necessary to convict the call to extermination, the calls to extermination launched by the media. 

Nevertheless, because of that you couldn' t simply dismiss certain facts, certain acts.  Each and everyone of us knows how important they were yet separating in that case the text or the words itself from the context.  And when we talk about a media trial, it' s a mistake.  What they' re actually trying here is certain people in the media, certain people who were selected by the prosecutors office.  And this selection while it was already pointed out, well there were two sides to this.  Really, this ignores a lot of the propaganda broadcast during that time, particularly the propaganda, which was, in fact, broadcast by the other side, by the RPF rebellion.  And since we' re talking about justice here, we have to recognize that by refusing to examine a large aspect of reality in Rwanda, then the prosecutor' s office had denied these people the right to be tried on the real relevance of all the facts.  They also deprived their judgment of an historic contribution it should have.  So what was left was law.  So 56 years after Nuremberg, it' s important therefore to look at the situation of propaganda, and to see propaganda as being a crime against humanity, and as being a crime of genocide. 

Now the first point I' d like to address and develop during the questions I hope is a question of law, because we' re talking here about a trial, and that' s what this is, because I' m a lawyer.  Now the question of propaganda in terms of genocide is not new.  In Nuremberg in 1945, they sat out clear criteria, two men, two names, represent Nazi propaganda in Nuremberg, and the criteria of Nuremberg.  Julius Streicher, who was editor in chief of the newspaper, Der Stürmer a slip of the tongue here, a slip of the tongue is very indicative.  In Nuremberg therefore we do also have a written press and the radio.  Julius Streicher for Der Stürmer he appealed directly for the extermination of Jews, before, during the genocide of the Jews.  He said you have to exterminate Jews from Russia, roots and branch, that was the expression he used, and he was condemned to death.

Second name, Hans Fritzsche, he was in charge of the radio of the Nazi party.  He was the director of the Department of Propaganda of Joseph Goebbels.  He developed anti-Semitic propaganda, which was extremely virulent, particularly hateful, but he did not actually call directly for the extermination of the Jewish people, and as a result, he was acquitted.  In 1948, the Convention for the Suppression of Genocide confirmed this dividing line.  Only a direct call for genocide can be subject to death sentence, and in 2003 what should the ICTR have done? 

We' re talking here about a trial.  We' re talking about rights and law, we' re talking about crimes against humanity.  The ICTR' s role was not to amend the law, rather it simply had to apply the law.  And as was pointed out by Madame Monasebian, incrimination includes from now on a large number of dangerous statements, sometimes hateful statements, which have nothing in common nevertheless with direct incitement to commit genocide. 

So, we can be pleased therefore of what might seem to be a move forward in human rights in the repression of such statements.  In my view that would be a superficial approach.  So we' ll come back to this, because what we' re talking about here is a very, very dangerous, and sometimes unacceptable trivialization of what is the crime of all crimes, the greatest of all crimes, the single crime of genocide. 

Now the second point concerns a question of identification of statements, and here we' re moving into a very complex area.  I just want to say one thing, so to be clear it' s quite honest, it' s quite clear that after April 6, 1994, it' s quite clear that on RTLM there was a direct call for the extermination of these people.  That' s clear.  It' s clear there were specific calls, and there were programs quoted by Jean-Pierre Chrétien, and also cited by Madame Monasebian, but before April 6th, the situation was different, and the propaganda was different.  And on that point, the point of interpretation of propaganda, there also I would ask you all, as journalists to go to directly to the sources, to look at the extracts cited in the judgment, and to investigate on the question of interpretation of terms, and by chance you have a Canadian decision, a very important Canadian decision, which was handed down in September, 2003, concerning somebody from Rwanda, somebody who was calling for the genocide, Mr. Nsanzuwera.  So I' d ask you therefore to examine this decision carefully, because it shows the enormous danger, what I would call really the quicksand of interpretation.  This is extremely dangerous.  When you' re talking not about you know context like today, where we can discuss things pleasantly, you' re dealing with a different context, a context where men are convicted, and it' s a court case.  So I' ll just conclude on this.  Well that' s the end of it.  That' s all I have to say. 

So I just wanted to draw your attention to that, the rule of law, rule of human rights are based on the rights of individuals, who are accused, we all know. And to ensure that the individual should not be crushed by authorities, even international authorities, international criminal authorities, and it' s a duty to make sure this is the case.  It' s a sacred duty, and it' s the role of the defense really to show such vigilance, and to speak out.  But I' m not telling you anything new here.  Ladies and gentlemen, you are journalists, and vigilance is your duty.  Well, we' re all familiar with this, this is your profession.  So thank you very much. 

Next: Question Period



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