Rwanda Singer On Genocide Charges

BBC News, September 18, 2006


One hundred days—The story of the 1994 genocide in sound and pictures


One of Rwanda’s most famous singers has gone on trial, accused of using his songs to incite violence during the 1994 genocide.

Simon Bikindi denies the charges and his lawyers say the charges violate his right to freedom of speech.

Meanwhile, a Rwandan lawyer wanted on genocide charges has resigned from the international tribunal set up to try the key figures behind the killings.

Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in just 100 days.

‘Hate media’

International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda chief prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow said Mr Bikindi, 52, had “used his renowned talent for use in a criminal enterprise”.

“Bikindi’s music was used to mobilise the youth to join the Interahamwe militia, the killing machine of the [former ruling party] MRND,” he said.

He also added that the prosecution would investigate links between Mr Bikindi and the RTLM radio station, accused of broadcasting “hate media”.

Several RTLM officials have been convicted of charges related to the genocide.

Mr Bikindi is a former sports ministry official and founded Rwanda’s Irindiro Ballet.

He was arrested five years ago in the Netherlands.

Removed

Rwanda had threatened to cut off relations with the ICTR unless lawyer Callixte Gakwaya was sacked.

Mr Gakwaya is wanted by the Rwandan authorities but not by the ICTR, set up to try the masterminds of the genocide.

He was arrested earlier this month in Tanzania but released after pressure from the ICTR.

“He has resigned,” said court spokesman Everard O’Donnell.

“His name has been removed from the list of eligible lawyers for the defence council of the ICTR.”

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