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One-Sided Justice At The Rwanda Tribunal
by Dr. Emmanuel Nyemera (11-21-2000)

One-sided justice is underway at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The ICTR's Chief Prosecutor and the United Nations Security Council must take all necessary measures to correct the current trend and ensure impartial justice applying to crimes against humanity committed by all the parties- winners and losers.

Six years after the creation of the ICTR, only those who lost power in Rwanda in 1994 have been indicted and are being prosecuted by the ICTR while the victorious Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)'s notorious suspected war criminals enjoy total and complete impunity for crimes against humanity committed and still being committed in Rwanda since October 1990 and in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 1996. This selective form of justice has encouraged the RPF's military and political leaders to continue the killings of civilians without fear of prosecution. More than 3,000,000 Hutu civilians have already been killed by the RPF's armed wing, the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA), since October 1990 and more than 1, 700,000 Congolese civilians have died in war imposed on the Congolese people by the RPA since August 1998. Systematic killings of civilians by the RPA have become a banality and are not rightly condemned as crimes against humanity. Instead, they are justified and portrayed as acts of liberation, a funny crusade against the Hutu "genocidaires" in which everyone should participate, a just war against the demonic losers who must be annihilated by the righteous winners to completely pave the way to RPF's eternal dictatorship. The ICTR's lack of impartiality in indictments and its reliance on the full cooperation of the RPF-led dictatorial government for entry visas for its personnel and free movement of witnesses in Rwanda have conferred to the RPA a licence to kill in complete impunity in the entire African Great Lakes region. This makes the ICTR look like a victor's tribunal without impartiality.

On the basis of the reports S/1994/879 and S/1994/906 of the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary-General, the report S/1994/1157, annex I and annex II , of the Special Rapporteur for Rwanda of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights and the preliminary report S/1994/1125 of the impartial Commission of Experts, the U.N. Security Council created the ICTR by its resolution 955 of 8 November 1994 to prosecute the persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of International Humanitarian Law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighbouring states between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994. The Commission of Experts concluded in its preliminary and final reports that

" individuals from both sides to the armed conflict in Rwanda during the period from 6 April 1994 to 15 July 1994 perpetrated serious breaches of international humanitarian law, in particular of obligations set forth in Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions and relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts of 8 June 1977 "

and that

" ample evidence indicates that individuals from both sides to the armed conflict perpetrated crimes against humanity ".

The Special Rapporteur of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights identified the then "Rwandese State authorities" overthrown by the RPA in July 1994 and the "RPF organs, particularly those in charge of military operations", now ruling Rwanda, as the perpetrators of those crimes. Six years later, all RPF's suspected war criminals on power in Rwanda enjoy complete impunity. However, no one can claim that justice is being done if two persons commit the same crime but the police chooses to arrest and prosecute only the weak and poor person and leaves the rich and powerful one completely free of charges. The State power should not deter the ICTR's Chief Prosecutor to indict and prosecute also RPF's suspected war criminals now free in Rwanda. Otherwise, the United Nations will be conveying a dangerous message that civilians can systematically be killed; if the killers end up on the top they get diplomatic recognition and complete impunity.

In contrast with the open mandate of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) which covers all war crimes committed in the Balkans since 1991, the ICTR's mandate covers only crimes committed between January 1, 1994 and December 31, 1994. This limited mandate has conferred to the RPA a licence to kill in complete impunity. In 1996, the RPA invaded the DRC and massacred more than 200,000 civilian Hutu refugees. Many international human rights organisations (Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, etc.) have well documented crimes against humanity committed by the RPA in DRC. By its Presidential Statement S/PRST/20 on 13 July 1998, the U.N. Security Council condemned those crimes and urged in particular the Rwandan government to prosecute their perpetrators. However, as suspected war criminals cannot prosecute themselves, no single RPF's politician or military commander has been punished for the massacres of Hutu refugees. Instead, all the killers have received a heroes' welcome on their return to Rwanda and have been promoted. For instance, on February 18, 2000, the government of Rwanda appointed Colonel James Kabarebe, former chief of the RPA's operations in Congo who supervised the massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees, as deputy chief of staff of the RPA. He has recently been promoted to Brigadier-General. Major-General Paul Kagame, the chief planner of the massacres of Hutu civilians since 1990 and minister of defence in the Rwandan government at the time of the massacres of Hutu refugees in Congo proclaimed himself Head of State. No real justice cannot be claimed when victorious notorious war criminals enjoy complete impunity.

The members of the U.N. Security Council and the U.N. Secretary-General must expand the ICTR's mandate in order to broaden the time during which crimes would be subject to prosecution. This provision would make the ICTR's mandate more comparable to the open mandate of the ICTFY which covers all war crimes committed in 1991. This would eliminate the bias and double standards in the course of the international justice and would demonstrate that the international community is fully committed to seek impartial justice when lives are lost in conflicts, without any distinction or preference based on race, colour, religion, ethnicity or sex of the victims or the perpetrators, winners or losers.

Dr. Emmanuel Nyemera is Vice-President of the Rally for the Return of Refugees and Democracy in Rwanda (RDR)


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