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.