Righteous Scholars of Truth, Human Rights and Justice

This article is a response to this letter addressed to Mr. Ban Ki-moon Secretary-General United Nations, US President Barack Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown regarding the ICTR’s failure to render complete justice. You can find the letter posted on Hungy of Truth blog. I encourage any and everyone who feels so inclined to share this letter and this response to as many people and post in as many places as possible. Human Rights First!

In May 2009, a group of international and well respected scholars took a bold step and wrote a letter addressed to the UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon. This letter demanded that soldiers of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), a military wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and massacres committed in 1994 during the Rwandan Genocide be brought to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha Tanzania. This noble deed was asking the UN court to fulfill its full mandate of establishing the truth and contributing to the process of national reconciliation. Among things that the letter brings to attention is that so far the ICTR has been a victor’s court. It also shows that without carrying out its full mandate, the ICTR will be viewed as a failure; especially the office of the prosecutor.

According to the ICTR website, “recognizing that serious violations of humanitarian law were committed in Rwanda , and acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, the Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) by resolution 955 of 8 November 1994. The purpose of this measure is to contribute to the process of national reconciliation in Rwanda and to the maintenance of peace in the region. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established for the prosecution of persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994. It may also deal with the prosecution of Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations of international law committed in the territory of neighboring States during the same period.”

The Rwandan tragedy was one of the worst events to ever occur in the history of the world and should be deplored, avoided and denounced in its whole entirety. The scholars who signed this letter are doing just that. They recognize that national reconciliation in Rwanda will never be achieved unless the truth is established. The Tutsi dominated RPF was at war with the then Hutu government. Having won the war, no one in the RPF/RPA ranks at the time has been indicted since the inception of the ICTR in 1995. Crimes by the RPF are well documented and witnesses to the RPA’s mass murder campaign in 1994 are in abundance. Having indicted and brought to trial most of the big fish from the former Hutu government, it is deplorable that no one in the RPF ranks has been indicted 15 years after these events. It is an embarrassing reflection on the ICTR, the UN, and the whole International Community, but these scholars refuse to be among the International community that stood by as Rwandans were murdered by angry thugs and RPF soldiers. They refuse to standby once again and watch an opportunity to help Rwandan people deal with these demons go by begging. The scholars made sure to highlight that only the losing side has faced the ICTR for their alleged crimes while the RPF/RPA is walking scot-free.

Previously, the ICTR prosecutor came out with the most unprofessional proposal, to allow the Tutsi dominated RPF government currently in power in Kigali to judge members of the RPA who allegedly took part in war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1994. These are crimes that are within the ICTR’s jurisdiction and highlight ICTR’s chief prosecutor Boubacar Jallow’s incompetence for the job. The proposal is similar to gang bangers accused of crimes being tried by the gang they belong to. Any prosecutor suggesting such a solution instead of doing his/her job should be dismissed from the job immediately for incompetence. Such a solution not only undermines the justice process, it robs the Rwandan people of the opportunity to achieve reconciliation through the establishment of truth. Now, Rwandans cannot hope to achieve reconciliation that they long for so much as a result of the ICTR’s ineptitude and especially that of the prosecutor. Victims or the RPF soldier’s crimes whose families were exterminated in 1994 are walking around Rwanda only to see those RPF soldiers who killed their loved ones free without any hopes of theses soldiers ever being tried. The scholars who wrote the letter to the UN secretary recognize that it is such a travesty and torture to allow this to happen. Unlike the rest of the international community who continue to stand by as Rwandans continue to suffer, the scholars who wrote this letter are standing up for the Rwandan people and should be commended for such courage.

In case the International community, the ICTR, and the prosecutor have not noticed the effects of allowing criminals to walk scot-free, they should look at the Democratic Republic of Congo to see what the RPF/RPA criminals have done in the region. These same RPF soldiers who committed atrocities in Rwanda in 1994, crossed into the DR Congo and have occupied it for the last 13 years. In that span, the Paul Kagame led invasions, insurgencies and rebellions have claimed Five Million (5,000,000) Congolese lives. Most of the victims are babies, children, women and the elderly. In the process the RPF/RPA and their proxies have introduced rape as a war tool. DR Congo is currently the most dangerous place for a woman to be. As a result of the impunity granted to the RPF criminals the whole region has been destabilized; millions have died, and over another million people are internally displaced in their own countries, while the RPF officers and politicians continue to line up their pockets with money gained from plundering of minerals in the Congo instead of facing Justice. The ICTR’s failure to prosecute RPF crimes is contributing to another human tragedy in the region. The letter by these scholars serves not only as a call to speed up national reconciliation in Rwanda, but also as a contribution to help end the regional conflict in which the RPF/RPA have been the major culprits. Message from the scholars: All victims Tutsis and Hutus alike need justice in order to achieve true reconciliation.


2 responses to “Righteous Scholars of Truth, Human Rights and Justice

  1. http://www.weeklystandard.com/weblogs/TWSFP/2009/08/watching_human_rights_watch_im_1.asp

    Watching Human Rights Watch Implode

    A few weeks ago Human Rights Watch made news when it was revealed in the Wall Street Journal that the group had sent representatives to Saudi Arabia to tout HRW’s battles with “pro-Israel pressure groups in the US, the European Union and the United Nations” as part of a fund-raising pitch to wealthy Saudi donors, including one member of the royal family’s Shura council. The deputy director of HRW’s Middle East section, Joe Stork, has a long history of doing battle with pro-Israel groups of all kinds. As this magazine pointed out at the time, Stork “attended a conference on ‘Zionism and Racism’ in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. There he made a presentation that lamented the ‘devastating defeat’ of the Six Day War, which he attributed to ‘imperialist collusion that lay behind the Israeli blitzkrieg.’ A decade later, Stork was still railing against ‘the pernicious influence of the Zionist lobby.'” Well, apparently that was only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Israeli paper Ma’ariv (via Commentary’s Noah Pollak), Stork once praised the “achievement” that was the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972:

    “Munich and similar actions cannot create or substitute for a mass revolutionary movement,” the statement said, “But we should comprehend the achievement of the Munich action…It has provided an important boost in morale among Palestinians in the camps.”

    These are the words of the second in command for the Middle East section at an organization that routinely condemns Israel for violating the laws of war, as Human Rights Watch did last week when it accused Israel of targeting civilians waving white flags based on nothing more than the testimony of a few Palestinian “witnesses.” The IDF shot back with video showing a Hamas terrorist planting a roadside bomb before trying to flee Israeli forces disguised as a white flag-waving civilian. There is a pattern here — biased staffers with radical views making allegations without any evidence and paying no price for doing it. And it’s a pattern that is being played out in other parts of the world where HRW maintains a presence.

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) is now going after the (UN’s) International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for not prosecuting enough members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the forces of President Kagame that drove the genocidaires out of Rwanda and into Congo back in 1994.

    In a press release today, HRW’s Ken Roth effectively accused the ICTR of being complicit in a “political whitewash and a miscarriage of justice.” For its part, the Tribunal, through Hassan Jallow (its chief prosecutor and undersecretary general of the UN) is firing back…big time, saying that (surprise!) HRW has failed to produce any evidence to support its allegations. (You can read the letter, which came in response to a previous HRW allegation using the same language, here.)

    HRW’s shoot before aiming approach seems to be part of a pattern. Earlier this year, the group publicly defended a professor at Goucher College in Maryland who stands accused of genocide and war crimes (including murder and extermination). He has an Interpol Red Notice on his head, and yet, in February HRW told the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun, and anyone else who would listen that the charges against Munyakazi were bogus. What they didn’t mention to those outlets is that HRW has never investigated the case. Within days of HRW coming to his defense, Homeland Security arrested Munyakazi, and he now has the distinction of being perhaps the only professor in America to live in university housing while wearing an ankle bracelet and being under indictment for genocide and war crimes.

    Here you have a group (HRW) that claims to be at the forefront of global efforts to end impunity and stop war crimes that is attacking a UN tribunal which has spent well over a decade working to end impunity and bring justice to the victims of the Rwandan genocide. The Tribunal is not buying HRW’s efforts to peddle its own (insane) historical narrative: that all parties in 1994 engaged in war crimes and are to some degree equally culpable.

    HRW claims that the RPF killed 25,000 to 45,000 people. It’s a claim that the UN tribunal, for one, does not seem to agree is rooted in fact and does not take into account: (a) the reality on the ground — that Kagame and his forces (the RPF) were trying to root out a civilian militia (the interahamwe) that was fully integrated into the local population and weren’t exactly wearing uniforms; (b) the fact that the interahamwe and the then-Rwandan Army (known as the FAR), killed 800,000-1,000,000 people by comparison; and (c) that in the handful of cases where RPF soldiers did step out of line, they were prosecuted — to the satisfaction of the UN Tribunal no less.

    But as is the case with HRW’s activity in the Middle East, the group’s statements and reports appear to be driven almost entirely by the ideology and politics of its staff — and the need to do damage control. Earlier this month HRW finally released a report on the the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas against Israeli citizens. The report concludes that these attacks were “unlawful.” Did it take HRW six months to reach that conclusion, or did the group simply feel the need to show just a little even-handedness after the Saudi fundraising story had become such an embarrassment for the organization?
    Just remember — an organization that criticizes the American government for violations of international law has among its senior staff a man who celebrated the “achievement” of murdering eleven Jews on the Olympic stage. The Rwandans, the Israelis, and our own government officials might be forgiven for thinking that Human Rights Watch ought to get its own house in order before pointing the finger at democratically elected officials who are trying to make the best of bad situations.

    Posted by Michael Goldfarb on August 17, 2009 04:12 PM | Permalink

  2. Dear Michael Goldfarb,

    Your post is misguided to say the least. The mentioned letter above was written by scholars who have been pivotal in documenting the Rwandan Genocide.

    Human Rights Watch that you are attacking has been key in the prosecution and conviction of genocidaires. Rwandan officials were on the other hand partly responsible for the massacres in Rwanda.

    Your last paragraph that insinuates that Paul Kagame was democratically elected is as laughable as saying that Mugabe, Kibaki, Charles Taylor and Museveni were democratically elected. To an uninformed observer, it would might make sense. But 93% vote in Rwanda for Paul Kagame? Give me a break. We know even those Rwandans who voted for him were chanting a remix of Charles Taylor election anthem “Paul Kagame killed my papa, Paul Kagame killed my mama, but I will vote for him anyway.” I frequently travel to the region and in Rwanda, many people whisper it in my ear. They wouldn’t dare say it out loud as they are afraid of what Kagame and his agents would do to them.

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