After journeying throughout Africa, Nahimana arrived on 30 August 1994 in Cameroon where he was arrested on 26 March 1996.
Ferdinand Nahimana was arrested on the basis of a request for extradition issued by the government of the Front Patriotic Rwanda (FPR – Rwandan Patriotic Front). The Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) took advantage of his arrest to ask the Cameroon authorities, by letter of 15 April 1994, not to go ahead with the extradition until such time as the ICTR could render an opinion on his case. It subsequently pressed charges against Nahimana in July/August 1996 and procured his transfer from Cameroon to Arusha, the headquarters of the ICTR, in January 1997.
During his first court appearance on 23 October 2000, Nahimana pleaded not guilty to the seven counts of indictment with which he was charged. The ICTR ordered that the trial of Ferdinand Nahimana be combined with that of, Hassan Ngeze (see “related cases”) a former promoter of the RTLM as well as being the former Director and Editor in Chief of the extremist newspaper Kangura and also that of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza (see 'related cases'), former political advisor to the Foreign Affairs Ministry and member of the Board of the RTLM. This trial which opened up on 23 October 2000, is widely known under the name of “the hate media trial”
The trial, which took place before the First Trial Chamber of the ICTR, came to a close on 8 December 2003.
Nahimana was ultimately convicted of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, incitement, directly and publicly, to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity. The other counts of indictment were dropped. He was condemned to life imprisonment.
The President of the Chamber, the South African Navanethem Pillay justified the harshness of the sentence by stressing that “Nahimana was a reputed academic and Professor of History at the National University of Rwanda. He was Director of the Rwandan Office of Information and Founder of the RTLM. He was fully aware of the power of words and used radio, the communication means the most capable of reaching the greatest number of people, to spread hate and violence”.
He appealed this conviction. The trial before the Appeals Chamber was opened on 16 January 2007.
On 28 November 2007, the Appeals Chamber reduced his prison term to 30 years. It overturned several charges, notably those which touched on facts or written articles taking place before 1994, the tribunal's mandate being voluntarily limited to that specific calendar year. It also overturned the conclusion of the initial trial judges that there had been an agreement between the RTLM, the CDR and Kangura with a view to committing genocide. Thus, it reversed the charges against Nahimana under Article 6(1) of the Statute. Nevertheless, it confirmed the ones under Article 6(3) for inciting directly and publicly to the commission of genocide and for persecution as a crime against humanity through the RTLM broadcasts made after 6 April 1994.
On 3 December 2008, Nahimana was transferred to Mali where he will serve the remainder of his sentence.
Trial Watch would like to remind its users that any person charged by national or international authorities is presumed innocent until proven guilty.