Bernard Lugan, French historian, threatens to walk away from Rwandan court where he's an expert witness

Historians in the News

Things got heated Thursday before a Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) at the beginning of the cross-examination of the French historian Bernard Lugan, when the latter, attacked by the prosecutor Moussa Sefon on his past, threatened to leave the court.

"Your Honour, I am a man of honour; whatever the consequences, I will leave", stated, with a raised voice, the French professor. Mr. Lugan came to testify as an expert at the request of General Augustin Bizimungu, the former chief of staff of the Rwandan army, and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who commanded a company within an elite unit. "I will return to France at my expense, the miserable remuneration of the Tribunal of 4 000 dollars, I will give it to the tribunal", he followed.

The historian, "with a brawling temper", according to his own words, took the bait when Sefon tried to oppose a curriculum vitae written by a French association and qualified as "false" by Lugan.

"This is a leaflet, a forgery from an association which I have condemned before chambers in France. (...) Your attitude is the illustration of your method", he launched to his contradictor. The expert affirmed that the office of the prosecutor knew very well that this document, of which had already been a question in a past testimony, was a forgery.

"Why is Mr. Lugan afraid that I say to him that his work is not scientific?", asked the representative of the prosecutor in the middle of a hubbub of the defence counsels. "You are pitiful. You are useless", answered the witness, sitting at a Chamber obviously exceeded and attentive only to the respect of an acceptable delay between the questions and the answers in order to allow for the translation.

As if he had a power to take to the streets, General Bizimungu's lawyer Gilles Saint Laurent, one of the elders in the courtroom, called everyone to remain calm. "I ask everyone and you Mr. Lugan. It is impossible to work under these conditions. I call for calm, I call upon the wisdom of the Chamber", asked the Canadian defence lawyer.

"My ancestors did not fold before Louis XIV, I cannot fold before the prosecutor", reacted the historian; whose intransigence constrained Mr. Sefon to give up his line of questioning on the document. After a suspension of the hearing, motivated by a fire drill of the Tanzanian firemen, the proceedings resumed more calmly, Lugan apologized....
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