Hassan Ngeze

08.05.2016 ( Last modified: 13.06.2016 )
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facts

Hassan Ngeze was born in 1957 in the Rubavu Commune of the Gisenyi Prefecture of Rwanda.

Until 1990, Ngeze held the position of correspondent and distributor in Gisenyi for Kanguka, an anti-ethnic newspaper critical of the ruling regime and especially of the military.

In 1990, he founded the newspaper Kangura with other well-known personalities of the “Akazu” (which means “the little house” – being a reference to the entourage of President Habyarimana). The first publication was entirely financed by the Information Bureau of the Presidency. The creation of this publication, for which Ngeze was made the chief editor, was part of a much wider strategy on the part of the State. By setting up such “hate media”, the authorities hoped to broadcast as widely as possible the official ethnic message. These media had a great influence on the Rwandan population and played a major role in the genocide. On occasion they were used as a direct means to communicate lists of people to be executed, and also to bring about, in a subtle way, a climate of perpetual tension and an intensification of inter-ethnic hatred (see the internet link attached).

Kangura, for example, published the “Ten Commandments of the Bahutus” (December 1990) which was an unequivocal call to contemptibility for and hatred towards the Tutsi minority in addition to constituting slander and persecution against Tutsi women

In 1991, Hassan Ngeze (in close collaboration with Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza) is said to have planned the killings of the Bagogwe (Northern Tutsis) in the Mutura Commune, in the Gisenyi Prefecture. He reportedly distributed arms and money to the soldiers of the Interahamwe and the Impuzamugambi who then committed the massacres. At that same time he was alleged to have been a participant in meetings presided over by Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and others, during which they encouraged the militia and the civilian population to kill Tutsis. As a result of these meetings Tutsis were attacked and murdered.

In 1993, when the “Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines” (Free Radio and Television of the Thousand Hills, RTLM) first went on the air, Ngeze became a shareholder of the station as well as its correspondent in Gisenyi. Between January and July, 1994, people’s names were called out over the air by RTLM and designated as enemies. In his role as informant in Gisenyi, Ngeze is said to have sent to the RTLM the name of an individual from Gisenyi, which was broadcast by this radio station in April 1994.

From 1990 to 1994, due to the influence he wielded, Ngeze was considered to be a de facto organ of the regime of President Habyarimana. He always attempted to deny this by invoking the fact that he was imprisoned several times by the regime during this same time period: and indeed it has been authenticated that he was imprisoned for high treason from July to October 1990.

At the time of the alleged events (note thatthe ICTR, by virtue of Article 1 of its Statute, only has jurisdiction over crimes committed between .January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1994), Ngeze was the chief editor of Kangura. As founder of the Movement for the Defence of the Republic (CDR), he was also an influential member of this party, and one of the commanders of the soldiers in the Gisenyi Prefecture. Previously, Hassan Ngeze had been a member of the National Republican Movement for Development (MRND), the party of the President

As chief editor of the Kangura, Ngeze exercised his authority and control over the employees responsible for publication, including the journalists. Furthermore as an important member of the CDR, ex-member of the MRND and one of the army commanders in Gisenyi, he wielded his authority over the troops of the Interahamwe (MRND) and the Impuzamugambi (CDR).

In April, May and June 1994, Ngeze was interviewed by RTLM and Radio Rwanda. During the interview, he allegedly called for the extermination of the Tutsis and those Hutus in opposition. He also took sides with the extremist Hutu ideology of the CDR.

From June 1993 up until he fled Rwanda, Ngeze reportedly supplied arms to many civilians dedicated to the cause of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) in the Gisenyi Prefecture. In 1993, in the same region, he also is said to have issued lists containing the names of moderate Tutsis and Hutus to be eliminated (lists which were drawn up by the Burgomasters and the sector advisors in the Gisenyi Prefecture) Ngeze would have been aware that the people appearing on these lists would be killed.

Throughout 1994, Kangura published lists with the names of members of the Tutsi population and moderate Hutus to be eliminated. These lists were used by the army and the militia during the massacres which were perpetrated between April 7 and the end of July 1994.

Starting in April 1994, Ngeze as leader of the Interahamwe allegedly took part in many killings in the Gisenyi Prefecture. At the place known as the “Red Commune”, which was the site of several massacres, he was reported to have supervised mass burials and congratulated the Interahamwe for their good work.

Between April and July 1994, as leader of the Interahamwe, Hassan Ngezeis said to have incited them to commit rape and other forms of sexual violence in the territory of the Gisenyi Prefecture.

During the same period, militia groups under the direction of the leaders of the CDR, one of which was Hassan Ngeze,reportedly hunted down, kidnapped and killed several members of the Tutsi population and the Hutu moderates of Gisenyi. Furthermore, many of the Tutsi houses were ransacked, destroyed or burned down. Hassan Ngeze was accused of taking no measures to prevent these acts from occurring even though he knew about them (or should have known about them).

On 10 April, he was reported to have fired a bullet into the side of a young Tutsi girl. As she lay dying, the girl was finished off with stones thrown by the Interahamwe who accompanied Ngeze.

Confronted with the advancing troops of the FPR, Ngeze fled Rwanda.
Hassan Ngeze was arrested in Kenya on 18 July 1997,at the demand of the Prosecutor of the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) and transferred the same day to the United Nations penitentiary in Arusha.

legal procedure

Hassan Ngeze was arrested in Kenya on 18 July 1997,at the demand of the Prosecutor of the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) and transferred the same day to the United Nations penitentiary in Arusha.

The ICTR ordered that the trial of Hassan Ngeze be combined with that of Ferdinand Nahimana (see ‘related cases’), the former Director of the Rwandan Information Office as well as being the founder of the RTLM and also that of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza (see ‘related cases’), former political advisor to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and member of the board (“comité d’initiative”) of the RTLM. This trial, which opened up on 23 October 2000, is popularly known under the name of “the hate media trial”.

At the outset, Hassan Ngeze boycotted the trial and did so for several days (until 26 October 2000). In this way he wished to register his protest against the translation of his newspaper articles by the ICTR, translations which he considered to be imprecise and unjust. He also demanded a complete translation into English and French of 71 issues of Kangura even though the ICTR, not having the necessary means, could only translate the relevant passages.

Ngeze pleaded not guilty to all the Counts of Indictment drawn up against him.

At the opening of the trial, his lawyer stated: ”Hassan Ngeze believes in democracy, in elections, in freedom of the press”, adding that “it is not Ngeze who is on trial . It is the liberty of the press which is on trial”. It therefore became precisely on the grounds of freedom of the press that the main elements of the trial were conducted. This was underlined by the assistant prosecutor, Bernard Muna, when he pointed out to the three judges of the Trial Chamber that their decision would define the limits of free speech. He laid stress on the role played by the media in the genocide, by comparing the work of the accused to that of Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS in Nazi Germany.

Hassan Ngeze’s line of defence was to deny everything. He stated the claim, amongst others, that he was not the author of the “Ten Commandments of the Bahutus” published in Kangura in December 1990. He claimed that he had taken this article from other newspapers and that in addition he had even published excuses shortly afterwards. He also highlighted the fact that he had saved the lives of several people during the genocide, a statement which was confirmed by witnesses.

In the end Ngeze was found guilty of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, of direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and crimes against humanity (persecution and extermination). On the other hand he was acquitted on the charges of complicity to commit genocide and of crimes against humanity (murder).

The president of the Trial Chamber, Mrs Navanethem Pillay, judged that Ngeze had used his magazine “to instigate hatred, spread fear and incite genocide. It is clear that Kangura played an essential role in creating the circumstances which led to the genocide”.

Ngeze was sentenced to life imprisonment.

He appealed this conviction. Trial before the Appeals Chamber was opened on 16 January 2007.

On 28 November 2007, the Appeals Chamber reduced his prison term to 35 years. It overturned several charges, but confirmed the ones under Article 6(1) of the Statute for:
– aiding and abetting the commission of genocide in Gisenyi prefecture;
– direct and public incitement to commit genocide through the publication of articles in his Kangura newspaper in 1994;
– aiding and abetting extermination as a crime against humanity in Gisenyi prefecture.

On 3 December 2008, Ngeze was transferred to Mali where he will serve the remainder of his sentence.

spotlight

This “hate media trial” assumed a special importance, since it was the first time since the trial of Hitler’s propagandists at Nuremberg that journalists appeared in the dock of an international tribunal.

Though at first sight it could have been seen as an attack on the liberty of the press, the trial nevertheless was very well received by the people of the media as well as by the international community overall. Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) even welcomed the proceedings of the ICTR, hoping that the judgment would constitute a precedent such that it would dissuade other similar media initiatives in Rwanda or in other countries. This organization also expressed the hope that this trial would bring to light the mechanisms which allowed the creation and development of an extremist press of such a particularly obnoxious and dangerous nature.

context

Rwanda has been historically inhabited by three distinct social groups, known as Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. Between April and July 1994 the country was torn apart by a bloody genocide, during which extremist Hutu people targeted Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was powerless against those committing the genocide, as the peacekeeping troops were outnumbered.

THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL TRIBUNAL FOR RWANDA (ICTR)

In hopes of facilitating the process of national reconciliation and to promote peace in the country, on 8 November 1994 the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 955, establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), located in Arusha, Tanzania.

The Tribunal’s function is to prosecute perpetrators of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed between 1 January and 31 December 1994 in Rwanda. Since its inception, 92 persons have been indicted in front of the ICTR. Some proceedings are however still ongoing.

The ICTR is primed to close down in 2015.

Regarding what will happen to the functions and activities that will outlive the ICTR, the UN Security Council established the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (or “the Mechanism”), in Resolution 1966 (2010), to take over the remaining functions of both the ICTR and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Mechanism, which has been functioning since 1 July 2012, has already taken over some of the ongoing functions of the ICTR, including the enforcement of sentences of those convicted and sentenced by the Tribunal, the tracking, arrest and prosecution of fugitives earmarked for trial at the Mechanism, and the care and protection of witnesses.

THE GACACA COURTS

In 1998, discussions began under the direction of the President of the Republic of Rwanda about the possible use of traditional courts to support the ordinary Rwandan judicial system and the ICTR. A commission was created to study this possibility, and its report provided the basis of the Organic Law of 26 January 2001, which created the Gacaca Courts.

These courts were in charge of trying the low and middle-level perpetrators of the genocide, apart from the “planners” who should have been tried before national courts. The Gacaca courts were composed of elected popular assemblies, made up of non-professional judges. The composition and functioning of such courts raised several concerns about the respect of fair trial guarantees.

According to Rwandan authorities, during their functioning, the Gacaca courts tried almost two million people. On 18 June 2012 Rwandan President Paul Kagame announced the official end of Gacaca courts’ activity.

Fact Sheet
Name: Hassan Ngeze
Nationality: Rwanda
Context: Rwanda
Charges: Genocide, Crimes against humanity, Deprivation of life
Status: Sentenced
Judgement Place: ICTR (Rwanda)
Particulars: Sentenced to 35 years by the Appeals Chamber on 28 November 2007; transferred to Mali on 3 December 2008