Ferdinand Nahimana (born 15 June 1950 in Gatonde commune) is a Rwandan historian who was convicted of participating in the Rwandan Genocide.
Nahimana was co-founder of the radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM), which during the genocide broadcast information and propaganda that helped coordinate the killings and fuel the hatred against Tutsi and moderate Hutu victims.
Ferdinand Nahimana holds a Doctorate in History from the University Paris Diderot. Between 1979 and 2007 he wrote many books, articles, about Rwandan History. In 1993 Nahimana helped create the RTLM radio station.
In April 1994, as the violence erupted in Rwanda after President Juvénal Habyarimana's death in a plane crash, the French embassy took Ferdinand Nahimana in, thereby helping him escape to Burundi. He was later arrested in Cameroon on 27 March 1996.
Nahimana, founder of the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille collines (RTLM) was convicted for his responsibility as a senior ranking official on the radio starting 6 April 1994, date on which he no longer exerted any role, according to his French lawyer Jean-Marie Biju- Duval. "There is an extraordinary paradox", estimated the lawyer in an interview with the Hirondelle agency.
This conviction, according to him, "marks the end of a certain right of evidence before international justice". "There was the idea that there was a right of evidence inherited from Common law (legal system mainly used before international courts) the protection barriers have been removed one after another", said Biju Duval, main counsel of Nahimana since 1996.
The Rwandan historian was convicted for not having done anything in order to stop the inflammatory shows of the RTLM after 6 April 1994, as he had, according to the judgment, an authority on the personnel of the radio station. According to the lawyer, "Nahimana was convicted on the weakest point of the prosecutor's thesis. The hierarchical responsibility is not the power of influence", he reminded. According to him, "it must be established within the framework of a chain of command, it must fall under a hierarchy with an effective control".
In addition to Nahimana, two other appellants were convicted by the appeals chamber, which delivered its judgment Wednesday. Jean Bosco Barayagwiza saw his sentenced reduced from 35 to 32 years and the sentence of Hassan Ngeze went from life in prison to 35 years
In past, Nahimana was prosecuted at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, together with two others involved with the RTLM: Hassan Ngeze and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. Nahimana claimed that he was innocent and denied having editorial control of the RTLM broadcasts during the killings: "I couldn't recognise the RTLM of those days from the one that existed before 6 April. It had been appropriated by radicals, what are now called extremists, whose way of seeing and doing things I did not share".
The "hate media trials" received attention since it was the first time since the Nuremberg trials that hate speech had been prosecuted as a war crime. On December 3, 2003, Ferdinand Nahimana was sentenced to life imprisonment, guilty of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement, directly and publicly, to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. Hassan Ngeze also got a life sentence, and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Despite the sentences' possible impact on freedom of the press, Reporters Without Borders welcomed the outcome of the trial.
Ferdinand Nahimana appealed his sentence, and the trial before the Appeals Chamber was opened on 16 January 2007. The Appeals Chamber reversed some of his convictions and reduced his sentence from life imprisonment to 30 years' imprisonment.
In December 2008, he has been transferred from Arusha (Tanzania) to Mali (in West Africa).
A 2010 book written by Hervé Deguine, journalist, historian and ex research director for Reporter without borders, points out that the proofs and motives invoked in Nahimana's trial were based on very little evidence except that he founded and was one of the owners of the radio station, exposing arguments and circumstantial evidence against his conviction. He concludes his book by affirming that on the basis of judicial proofs, Nahimana should be released.