International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Tag Archives: Rwanda

Why not the Winners too?

History is written by the victors. The winners decide the rules, and the punishments to dole out to those who break those rules. The Nuremburg and Tokyo trials after WWII proved that. The defeated Germany and her allies were put on trial by the victorious world powers, but these winners had the express design to punish the losers in this war. That is how it has always been; the winners punish the defeated for their crime, but what about the crimes of the victors? The crimes of the victors are often ignored in favor of publicizing the crimes of the losers, but shouldn’t all crimes in a conflict be persecuted? Shouldn’t the nations that preach that impunity cannot exist, be held responsible for the crimes that they committed? It is this in mind that the ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) and the ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) were created. They were made in the image of the Nuremburg and Tokyo Trials, but with a new purpose of prosecuting both the winning and losing sides in the conflict. These tribunals are trying to make sure that no matter what side you are on, that committing war crime will never go unpunished.

Banality of Evil

“The Banality of Evil”

I remember first hearing this phrase and thinking how can evil be ordinary? It gives many great comfort to think that people are born inherently evil, that your neighbor, friend, colleague, would never be this caricature of evil. But that is not the truth, and the truth is a terrifying reality. Normal people can do more damage than the person holding the gun, The Nazis proved that. The bureaucratic officials of Nazi German were a well-oiled machine where one signature at the bottom of an insignificant piece of paper could send thousands to their death. It was so easy to blame the figurehead of the movement, Hitler, but he never pulled a trigger (except on himself). The power behind Hitler was the fire he ignited with his rhetoric and promises, and to a severely economically depressed Germany, his words sounded like salvation. People still question why anyone would follow a man like Hitler, but they didn’t follow the man, they followed the promise of a future that Hitler promised. Hitler made the masses proud to call themselves German once again after humiliation in WWI. People could have felt they had an obligation to the man who raised their country back up, they could have whole-heartedly believed in his rhetoric. The important thing to remember is that without the support of the masses, the ordinary people, no dictatorship or genocide would ever happen; they would have no army, no followers to fill their ranks, no support for their cause.

The Gacaca court system in Rwanda

As we have discussed in class, three different court systems have been used to prosecute the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide: the ICTR, the national court system, and the local-level Gacaca court system. These systems have, on the aggregate, been quite successful in terms of the sheer number of cases they have tried since the genocide; however, there are still many concerns about the legitimacy and biases of the Gacaca courts, ultimately resulting in what the BBC terms, ‘controversial justice’ (BBC).

Immediately following the genocide in 1994, Rwanda’s legal system was left largely in disarray. In order to prosecute the large volume of genocidaires, it became clear that employing various court systems would be necessary. As a result, the Gacaca courts transitioned from settling only small local disputes and adapted to “a more conventional model of punitive justice,” which sought to “reveal the truth about the genocide” (HRW). In 2005, these courts began prosecuting the “thousands of accused still awaiting trial in the national court system,” to further their goals of achieving “justice and reconciliation at the grassroots level” (UN).

By 2012, the system of 12,000 community-based courts had tried over 1.2 million perpetrators throughout Rwanda (UN & BBC). According to statistics, approximately 65% of those tried were found guilty, and were subsequently sentenced. In these local courts though, it was possible to significantly reduce your sentence if you showed signs of remorse, publically apologized, and asked for forgiveness from your community (UN). Consequently, some called into the question the legitimacy of the courts— fearing that convicted genocidaires could deliver falsely “sincere” apologies in order to “return home without further penalty” (HRW & UN).

As the Human Rights Watch asserted, the expectation that the Gacaca courts would achieve “national-level reconciliation” in these few years was pretty far-fetched (HRW). In fact, a multitude of other factors caused people to question the legitimacy of these trials, including corruption, personal ties, and intimidation (HWR). Although the BBC reported that “many people in Rwanda” have credited the system for “help[ing] to mend the wounds of the past,” the Gacaca’s ability to promote justice and reconciliation has undoubtedly been challenged by these underlying problems (BBC & HRW). For these reasons— as well as the many reasons we have discussed in class— it is and will remain to be very difficult to assess the success of these courts for many years to come.

France Convicts Rwandan for Crimes Against Humanity

After six weeks of hearings, a “great victory” for the victims of the Rwandan genocide was won today when the Criminal Court in Paris convicted fugitive Rwandan Pascal Simbikangwa of the crime of genocide and being complicit to crimes against humanity for his actions during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Simbikangwa, a 54 year old Hutu man who lived in Kigali during the war, was an intelligence officer during the genocide and was accused of supplying weapons and giving orders to the Interahamwe militia in Kigali  and encouraging them to slaughter Tutsis. He was also known to have had tight connections with the death squads as well as with the Akazu, a secret and elite Hutu corps within Mr. Habyarimana’s inner circle. He was originally sought under an arrest warrant in 2008 and was not apprehended until 2009 on the island of Mayotte, a French territory in the Indian Ocean. Despite being bound to a wheelchair and fervently denying his involvement in the genocide, French prosecutors sentenced  Simbikangwa to 25 years in prison in the landmark decision.

This case is significant because it marks the first time that a Rwandan fugitive accused of genocide was convicted of his crimes in France. Under international law, a country can claim criminal jurisdiction over a person who committed genocide regardless of where it was committed, yet France has been notoriously criticized for its lack of response following the 1994 genocide. Since 1994, other European countries such as Belgium, Norway, and Sweden have all convicted Rwandan fugitives accused of genocide. With France’s decision, however, it will open the way for more than 20 upcoming prosecutions against fugitive Rwandan officials accused of genocide. After the RPF took control of the government at the end of the genocide, many upper- and mid-officials fled to new countries to escape being tried and have escaped accountability for their actions. Yet, is justice of this truly such a “great victory” like many believe? Rwandan criticisms for the ICTR have been well documented, yet even that justice is much more direct that the offshoot justice served in a French court that is far separated from the Rwandan people and survivors. Should France have sent Simbikangwa back to Rwanda to be tried in his local courts once they apprehended him in 2009? Would putting him through the gacaca system (back in 2009) have been better for the survivors of the genocide–having him openly admit to his crimes–than relegating him to a French prison in front of French spectators? Does where he is persecuted matter as long as he is held accountable for his crimes, even if its done by a foreign government?



“Kagame pushes his luck”

On Wednesday South Africa warned Rwanda that it would not “tolerate ‘criminal’ attacks on its soil against Rwandan exiles that have drawn international criticism of President Paul Kagame’s government.” This warning comes on the heels of an attack on the Johannesburg home of former Rwandan army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, an exiled critic of the Kagame regime. Critics of the regime claim that President Kagame has taken advantage of Western guilt over the genocide to increase persecution of opponents, especially as the 20th anniversary of the genocide approaches. President Kagame has also faced criticism from the international community after a U.N. report showed that his government supported an insurgency in eastern Congo last year. The U.S. Special Envoy to the Great Lakes region has expressed concern over the South Africa-Rwanda situation, as they are both important influences in the region.

Recently Rwanda has criticized the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for ineffective and incompetent handling of the 1994 genocide trials, but I wonder if possibly the greatest example of the ICTR’s mistakes is the very fact that Paul Kagame is president? With the ICC and international tribunals there is a tendency for victor’s justice, in part because often the side which ‘rebels’ did suffer statistically more atrocities, but also because the tribunals need state cooperation in order to function. President Kagame led the Tutsi rebel movement that ended the 1994 genocide, and in the process presided over an army that did carry out retribution killings. Though the situation in Kenya does prove that even international indictments don’t keep war criminals out of office, Paul Kagame was never even indicted. The Rwandan government’s involvement in the attack detailed above is still unsubstantiated, but President Kagame has publicly said that “’traitors’ should expect consequences.” With the increasing violence in the Central African Republic, it is important for Rwanda and South Africa to act as stabilizing forces, but as an editorial in a South African newspaper said, it remains to be seen if Kagame will continue to “push his luck,” and I suspect he will.


Rwanda and the ICTR

Rwandan senate report slams genocide tribunal

The Rwandan senate has issued a report criticizing the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It claims that the tribunal was inefficient and incompetent. This stems from a long history of Rwandan refusal to cooperate with the court, beginning with its initial vote against the tribunal’s mandate. Then, as now, the Rwandan government objected to the tribunal’s placement in Tanzania rather than locally.

The Rwandan government’s objections are not the only criticisms of the ICTR. It experienced issues of authority, as its temporal mandate was limited to the year 1994 and it could not investigate crimes before or after this period despite the long-term nature of the conflict. It has also confronted issues with state cooperation and victor’s justice. The Tutsi rebel group, the RPF, controlled Rwanda after the conflict and thus controlled Rwandan negotiations in the creation of the tribunal. They succeeded in setting the tribunal’s temporal mandate to end in July 1994, so that acts perpetrated by Tutsis after July would not be subject to ICTR jurisdiction. This serves as an example of both the ability of the victors in a conflict to achieve impunity and the ability of a state to undermine a tribunal’s effectiveness when cooperation is not in its interest.

Rwandan Senate and the ICTR

The day before the recent conviction of DRC warlord Katanga, another piece of news affecting international justice system. The Rwandan senate released a report heavily critical of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, stating that “the body had been inefficient and incompetent.

What does the report say?

1. A major criticism is the length of time the ICTR took. The commission revealed that over the lifetime of the ICTR there was a period of 14 months in which no cases were tried. The result si the Senate fears many changed their testimonies, or simply died in the interim, both of which clearly hinder justice

2. Rwanda itself voted against the formation of the ICTR because a) the Court operated not in Rwanda, b) the ICTR “did not include Rwandan prosecutors and judges despite having the requisite qualifications” (Senator Bizman, chairman of foreign affairs) and c) Cases between 1990 and 1994 were not tried in the court

3. The current lack of permanent representation on the court (instead there is a ‘special representative’) means Rwandan officials “get to know about decisions after a long time” (Bizman)


The two most severe criticisms relate to the implications of the legitimacy of the ICTR. First and foremost, how legitimate can we say this form of justice is, when little Rwandan presence is involved in prosecutions, despite their wish to be included? It is difficult to see this as anything but an external imposition of justice, when the Rwandans themselves have not been included.

Furthermore, the slow nature of this type of justice, as well as the disputed cases, especially Juvenal Jaerijeri, the mayor of Mukngo, who has requested a retrial, means there is a disconnect between the expectations from Rwandans and court itself. This is further complicated by the comparatively speedy nature of the Gacaca courts. 

This is a point worth bearing in mind though. Gacaca were established by the govenrment, and as such its so-called ‘legitimacy’ derives from the fact that it is traditional. In criticizing the ICTR in such a fashion, and for such reasons, we can also see implicit praise of Gacaca, which obviously includes Rwandans and was wrapped up faster than the ICTR (and convicted more people). Thus, in defense of the ICTR, such a report clearly has political gains for the current government.

Thus it is worth being a little sceptical of such a report. Clearly the ICTR has mistakes, and certainly the lack of Rwandan presence can be an issue. But, take for instance one claim of the report, that crimes between ’90 and ’94 should be tried. In order for impartiality to truly be valid, the crimes of the RPF over the same period, and post genocide, should also be punished. Such crimes were significant, such as the potential deaths of up to 200,000 Hutus in the 1st Congo War. Would, then, the RPF really want the scope of the ICTR to be extended? Or is part of this a play for political gains for domestic policies like RPF, and an overt critique of the international justice system?


U.N. Court, on Appeal, Acquits 2 Rwandans in 1994 Genocide

A little over a week ago the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) acquitted two Rwandans indicted for their roles in the 1994 genocide. It has been twenty years since the genocide, but efforts to find and punish those responsible for the atrocities continue. Augustin Ndindiliyimana, the former chief of staff of the Rwandan paramilitary police, and François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, the former commander of a military reconnaissance battalion were the two acquitted. Ndindiliyimana was one of the highest ranking officials indicted by the tribunal, and was convicted of genocide. But because of the length of time between when he was arrested, his conviction, and his appeal he was freed after time served. I understand that the ICTR is underfunded and that it is trying to figure out protocol etc., but a man who was convicted of genocide should not be released for time served. He spent eleven years in the middle of the process, but because he spent it awaiting a decision and not in prison as a convicted criminal it undermines the court’s decision. This case should be a wake up call for the international community that these tribunals need to be funded better in order for them to work more effectively. I wonder if the fact that they will be forced to wait years and waste a large amount of money dis-incentivize perpetrators of atrocities from turning themselves in?



Cost-Benefit Calculations: The Case of Bosco Ntaganda

Last week, the “confirmation of charges” hearing for Bosco Ntaganda, former Congolese rebel leader of the FPLC and the M23, for war crimes concluded at the ICC. The purpose of the hearing was to determine if the Prosecutor’s office, headed by Fatou Bensouda, has enough evidence against Ntaganda to continue to trial.

The case made headlines last year when Ntaganda turned himself in at the American Embassy in Kigali, nearly four years after his indictment was unsealed, and requested to be transferred to the ICC in The Hague. His self-surrender is an interesting data point for considering whether the ICC could act as an effective deterrence mechanism. Ntaganda evidently decided that participating in his trial and being transferred to The Hague was preferable to his options in the Congo, although his reasoning for surrender was a topic of much discussion. The M23 was fracturing, eleven African countries had just signed an accord signaling their commitment to defeating the organization, and UN forces would by the end of 2013 drive the group to surrender.

Ntaganda had lost, militarily and politically, so his surrender meant that he was choosing detention and trial at the ICC over…death at the hands of other M23 factions? Certainly he stood to lose a great deal of power as the M23 split. His claim of indigence at the ICC, despite his rumored wealth, could suggest that he was set to lose financially as well. (Or, it could suggest that he would like to try to hide his wealth in favor of receiving free and high-quality legal representation, which is probably more likely.) Some have also suggested that Ntaganda was pressured by the Rwandan government, which seems credible especially because of the necessary involvement (or at least complicity) of the Rwandan government in allowing him to reach Kigali. Ultimately, however, Ntaganda’s surrender indicates that trial at the ICC is not necessarily considered a significant punishment. Joseph Kony has of course protested his indictment vociferously, but in Ntaganda’s case, transfer to the ICC removed him from a volatile and dangerous environment in which he was on the losing side. If trial at the ICC is viewed as a step above military defeat, rather than as the ultimate humiliation, its deterrent effects are likely minimal

How ‘accomplice’ to Rwanda genocide turned up in a rural English pulpit

The Church of England is currently looking into allegations made by human rights groups concerning Rwandan bishop Jonathan Ruhumuliza’s role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. In the 1990’s Human Rights Watch described Ruhumuliza as “acting as a spokesman for the genocidal government,” but despite these allegations he was first made bishop of Kigali, then the Church of England moved him to Canada in 1997, then to Cameroon, and now to England where he serves St. Mary and All Saints Church in Worcestshire, England. The British Home Office originally denied his visa application citing irregularities, but he was eventually granted six month renewable work permits after the Church of England hired him a lawyer. This is an unfortunate public relations situation for the Church of England, but it also brings up an interesting problem. The ICC will try only the “worst of the worst,” but should just the “worst” go free? Ruhumuliza not only acts as a spiritual leader, but also as a ministry, education and training officer for African and Asian Anglicans in Birmingham, England. He is a leader in the community, and yet he praised the “peace loving” government of Rwanda to the international community and denounced the RPF; he wrote that the RPF was “destroying everything, killing everybody they [met] while the government [was] trying to bring peace in the country.” Joshua Sang, a radio broadcaster for Kass FM radio in Kenya, was indicted in 2011 on three counts of crimes against humanity in regards to the situation in Kenya. Though Sang never held a gun he was indirectly responsible for murders, deportations, and torture. Like Sang Ruhumuliza has no literal blood on his hands, but he is indirectly responsible for thousands of deaths in the country as he aided the government to cover up their crimes. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is ending and because of the temporal restrictions Ruhumuliza may not have been able to be prosecuted anyway, but I believe that he should be sent back to Rwanda to face justice in a domestic court. He is a bishop, but this does not excuse what he did, it has been 20 years, but should this man be able to live freely and teach young people? Will the Church of England continue to protect its own?


Visualizing the Impact of International Tribunals

Take a look at this visually impressive report on the impact of international tribunals, authored by Daniel McLaughlin and published by the Leitner Center for International Law and Justice).

tribunals map

It graphically presents data on the atrocities, tribunals and cases, which gives you a sense of both their relative scope and impact. The author explains that

“despite the tribunals’ grasp on the popular imagination, they are the subject of significant misconceptions and confusion. Much of the media coverage dedicated to their work remains superficial, at best, and largely muddle over key distinctions between various tribunals, past and present.”

The report also provides a comparative cost analysis with other major events, like the Olympics or  US Presidential election. Do the results surprise you?

intl courts costs

How does this data aid in our evaluation of international tribunals? Based on this and assigned readings in class, how should we evaluate the legitimacy and effectiveness of international tribunals?

Alain and Dafroza Gauthier: Searching for Justice

recent NY Times article profiled the work of Alain and Dafroza Gauthier, who have spent the past 13 years collecting evidence for the prosecution of 24 perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide who are now hiding in France. Their efforts have been successful; “Paris appointed five judges to investigate the matter of the Rwandan fugitives and opened a police section specializing in crimes of genocide. Next month, the judges are scheduled to bring their first criminal case against a Rwandan fugitive accused of genocide” (NY Times).

Their success illustrates how important individuals actors are to the spread of norms of international justice and the end of impunity (a theme explored in the most recent chapter we’ve read from Kathryn Sikkink’s The Justice Cascade). It also helps to understand the human toll of impunity–how an obsession for justice for family and a beloved country can lead two individuals with no background in law (he’s a former school principal and teacher, she’s a chemical engineer) to devote decades of their lives to an investigation. Justice for atrocities is more than an abstract concept–it has real value to victims.

This case also reveals the stakes of pursuing international justice for individual states. Rwanda and France only resumed diplomatic ties in 2009, and while these prosecution will likely improve ties between the two countries, “there is a risk the rapprochement could be set back if the trial results in a short sentence or acquittal. ‘The Rwandans would not be happy at all with that,’ acknowledged one French diplomatic source” (Reuters, 9/12/13).

Also interesting is the revelation from Alain Gauthier that perpetrators of atrocities in hiding “come across as pillars of society, be it as practicing priests and doctors. ‘They try to be forgotten,’ he said” (Reuters). Dafroza Gauthier explains that these perpetrators have “always denied, they have created another story, they have completely erased that part of their lives. They were obliged to do so, otherwise you end up in a mental institution. You can’t live with a crime like that” (Mrs. Gauthier, quoted in NY Times). It is chilling to think that individuals with so much blood on their hands could resume a normal life and take up a position of trust in the community, especially when victims have so much trouble resuming their normal lives and moving past the tragedy. Perhaps this is one reason why justice in the wake of atrocities is so essential–it forces perpetrators to confront their crimes and the victims whose lives they’ve shattered.

Susan Rice and Failed U.S. Policy in Central Africa

Image“Museveni [of Uganda] and Kagame agree that the basic problem in the Great Lakes is the danger of a resurgence of genocide and they know how to deal with that. The only thing we [i.e., the United States] have to do is look the other way.” – Susan Rice, U.S.Ambasador to the United Nations (quoted by Howard W. French in Kagame’s Hidden War in the Congo)


U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, considered a strong candidate to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, continues to be heavily criticized for comments she made after the attack on a diplomatic post and CIA headquarters in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi. However, as was pointed out in class last week, she is rarely criticized for her role in shaping U.S. policy toward Central Africa. A recent Foreign Policy article points out that she was far more involved in forming U.S. responses to the Rwandan genocide, mass violence in Burundi, and two wars in the Democratic Republic of the Congo than she was in the Benghazi case. 

During a debate about whether or not to call the killings in Rwanda a “genocide” during her first year as a junior official at the National Security Council, Rice was famously quoted as asking what implication using the term would have on an upcoming congressional election. Essentially, labeling the violence genocide would mean they would have to intervene, and calling it genocide when there would be no intervention might negatively impact elections.

“I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required,” Rice stated shortly after. While she has advocated for humanitarian interventions in U.S. foreign policy, her involvement in shaping U.S. policy in Central Africa has fallen far short of “dramatic action,” and has generally been characterized by a refusal to be critical of African leaders, even in the conflict resulting from Rwandan and Ugandan forces in the Congo or M23 taking control of Goma.

In her reluctance to criticize the Rwandan government’s involvement in the Congo, Rice has also blocked a U.N. report that contained evidence of Rwanda’s support of M23, insisting that the government of Rwanda should be allowed to reply first. Further, a Security Council resolution documenting Rwanda’s support of M23 has allegedly been changed to include the phrase “outside support” instead of specifically identifying Rwanda.

American policy towards Central Africa, which Rice played a key role in shaping, seems stagnant and stuck in the past. She is not exclusively responsible for the conceptually outdated and unambitious policies that have emerged, but it seems clear that her role impacted policy formation enough to prevent the U.S. from engaging much more strongly in the Congo.


Where does the state belong in traditional, local justice?

“Traditional”, local justice seeks to add a new layer to the transitional justice framework by drawing upon traditional rituals and processes in order to enact justice.  Most of these rituals focus on restorative justice, with reparations to the victims’ families and reintegration of the perpetrators at their core.  Such efforts are intended to be community-based, for these perpetrations, especially in locations such as Rwanda and Uganda, involved perpetrators attacking members of their own community.  However, despite the goals of being community-based and rooted in tradition, some of these justice mechanisms fall under the control of the state.  Most notably, gacaca has been criticized by such scholars as Susan Thomson and Rosemary Nagy for becoming an instrument of state control (see their article: “Law, Power and Justice: What Legalism Fails to Address in the Functioning of Rwanda’s Gacaca Courts”).  Gacaca was enacted by national law, is often monitored by state security officials, and is tightly regulated and controlled by the government.  In short, through gacaca, “the Rwandan government seeks to ensure that the populace performs its vision of justice and reconciliation without opposition” (Thomson and Nagy, 14).  From such observations, then, it would seem preferable that traditional justice operate independent of state control in order to maintain its integrity.

However, such independence may also be dangerous.  In “Ritual (Ab)use? Problems with Traditional Justice in Northern Uganda,” Tim Allen argues that regulation, most likely by the state, are an important part of preventing the abuse of traditional methods.  As Allen warns, “Without regulation, rituals and customs are as likely to be adapted to interpret and punish witchcraft and sorcery as they are to deal with more ‘conventional’ instrumental killings and mutilations” (Allen, 51).  Furthermore, Allen argues that the absence of state involvement may actually create divisions within the country or at least make transitional justice less likely to promote national integration and unity (52-53).  This is because it would make it appear that the government and other regions in a state do not care about the violence in a particular region and desire to leave the locals to their own devices.

So, where should the state fit in traditional justice?  As is often the case, a middle path seems the most suitable.  The state does need to offer its support and legitimacy to methods of traditional, local justice.  However, the state must also not take full control of such methods to where they become another arm of the state.  When this occurs, it can actually create a great deal of resentment in the local populations and de-legitimize the process, as was often the case with gacaca in Rwanda.  Therefore, the state should not be wholly absent, but it must not use traditional justice as a type of panopticon.  So, in the case of state involvement, moderation is best, but if a decision is to be made, it is better to err on the side of too little than too much.

How Much is £21 Million Worth?

Amidst delays in M23’s scheduled exit from Goma, and M23’s denial of being backed by the Rwandan government Britain–the largest bilateral donor to Rwanda–has decided to withhold £21 million in aid payments.  President Kagame and Rwanda’s economic and social recovery from the genocide has been widely praised by the international community as a remarkable role model for development.  This recovery has been heavily backed by donor funds, such that Rwanda has been termed by some a “donor darling.”  

Under these conditions, the international community has largely ignored President Kagame’s more authoritarian practices, such as repression, imprisonment, intimidation and murder—justified by Kagame as necessary for Rwandan unity and to prevent a return to ethnic divisionism. It is evidently harder for the international community to ignore the relationship of Rwanda with the abuses of the M23, led by ICC indicted Bosco Ntaganda.  Akhavan argues that stigmatization can alter the cost-benefit analysis of continued conflict (Sudan stopped backing the LRA after ICC arrest warrants).  The rosy view of Rwanda has been marred by its involvement with M23 and Britain is justly putting the pressure on Rwanda to decide whether it is worth £21 million to continue backing M23.  The cost-benefit analysis has been altered for the Rwandan government and if they decide the price is too high, M23 may do so as well. 

Defining ‘Traditional’

Last class when we discussed the role of traditional justice in the cases of Rwanda and Northern Uganda, it seemed that one of the main differences was how closely Northern Uganda’s implementation resembled the ‘traditional’ model compared to gacaca courts.  Particularly that ‘traditional’ gacaca courts did not address killings and were used primarily for land and property disputes.  I found it interesting reading the Huyse report when he/she states:

“The old Gacaca was mostly used for minor offences, although apparently it could also be used for cases of manslaughter. The arrival of colonialism may have had a modifying influence on the functioning of the Gacaca in that regard, by prohibiting its use for serious crimes (44).”

Evaluating how “true” the official gacaca resembled traditional gacaca is difficult because the traditional gacaca courts evolved over time.  As with any institution, it continually transformed and adapted according to political and social pressures.  She also states that after Rwanda received its independence in 1962, the “gacaca gradually evolved into an institution associated with state power as local authorities were supervising (or taking the role of) local judges (34).”

Thus, killings and state actors had been present to some degree, at some point in time, in pre-genocide gacaca courts.  Undoubtedly, there were many flaws in the implementation and execution of the official gacaca courts, but it seems that the legitimacy of traditional justice should not be determined by how closely it resembles previous institutions, but rather, how effective it can be at achieving its goals at the local level, given the current institutions and social climate.

Genocide Witness Protection in Rwanda

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established the Victim and Witness Support Unit, a genocide witness protection program. The VWSU was created in 2006 after more than 150 genocide survivors were murdered for testifying against suspects. Some genocide suspects were even targeted after testifying against other perpetrators who were on trial. A second witness protection was created two years later as mandated by the Supreme Court. While the first unit was praised because it was somewhat effective in the healing and reconciliation process among survivors and perpetrators, the second unit has been criticized because it did just the opposite. A genocide and human rights organization called REDRESS released a report in which they criticized Rwanda for pushing anonymity in their second unit, which does not “protect witnesses from re-traumatization.” They believe that the unit, which was forced to have genocide suspects transferred to Rwanda, does not aid in the recovery of victims but rather creates lasting tension among people on both sides of the issue. Their issue with anonymity is that it “clashes with some witnesses’ desire for communal acknowledgment through public testimony and the fact that anonymity is often difficult to ensure on the hills of Rwanda.” Additionally they contend that there should only be a single witness protection unit with a trauma counseling section. Genocide survivors who were interviewed stated that they preferred a system that allows them to speak openly, so it seems that the only issue is the schism between the right of victims to openly tell their stories out of a desire for societal acknowledgment of their suffering and their safety. While REDRESS poses a possible solution, which is to strike a balance by having security for witnesses in open and public testimonies, it simply does not seem like that will be enough.

Rwanda’s Economic Growth and Civil Liberties

As the BBC video in class discussed, Rwanda’s economy has more than doubled since Rwandan President Paul Kagame came to power in 2000; foreign direct investment in the country jumped 57 percent to $626 million last year from 2010, the Rwanda Development Board says.  However, this economic progress has also been followed by attacks on civil liberties and human rights to some degree.  Several government officials in the video defended the policies as being necessary for short-term stability after the genocide.

In a Bloomberg BusinessWeek article, the global chief economist at Renaissance Capital stated, “Investors care about growth, and the side effect of growth is nearly always better human rights in the long-term.  The Rwandan government is producing growth and that’s very positive for the Rwandan people and eventually for Rwandan human rights and Rwandan democracy.”   A prominent example of this economy/human rights correlation is China and its slow expansion of civil liberties as its economy continues to advance.

If in fact, a suppression of civil liberties was needed to establish a foothold economically, is it then justifiable?

Rwanda-Congo deja vu?

After discussing the M23 rebel group and the growing conflicts in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I was curious as to how this conflict was being covered in the main stream news. Today, the Huffington Post published an article titled “Rwanda-Congo deja vu” which highlighted the conflict as an extreme threat to Rwanda, as well as the DRC. The article paints a picture of a conflict fueled by Rwanda’s quest for land and resources that is shaping up to be be similar to conflicts the country has faced in the past. Written with a strong point of view that Rwanda is aiding the M23 rebel group, the article also hints at the negative findings that will be revealed in a document that the U.N. is set to release on Friday.

In line with today’s class discussion centered around themes discussed in the movie, I found it very interesting to find multiple comparisons to the past situations and crime in this article. Much like view in the movie, this article seems to “hold” Rwanda’s past over the current situation. The article seems very quick to accuse Rwanda of wrong-doing by partly using the reasoning of past situations. No matter the outcome, it will be very interesting to read the U.N. group of experts’ report on Friday and  observe the security council’s actions. Especially with Rwanda’s seat on the council. An article published in The Atlantic further detailed the influence Rwanda’s seat could have moving forward explaining, “with a Security Council seat, the Rwandan government will have direct influence over the bodies empowered to investigate and sanction countries and individuals who stoke conflict in the DRC.” It seems as if Rwanda’s “pr machine” as referenced in lecture might be fueled for a long time to come.

Measuring Reconciliation in Rwanda (in 2010)

In October of 2010, Rwanda’s National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) put forth the Rwandan Reconciliation Barometer (RRB), inspired by the South African Reconciliation Barometer, which has measured public opinion on national reconciliation in South Africa since 2003. The RRB is a “national public opinion survey that intends to track progress on the road to reconciliation in Rwanda by means of a structured quantitative research instrument” (9), with data collected by universal sampling from 3,000 Rwandans from all thirty districts in the country.

It seems as if the study was carried out by a team of consultants from the UNDP – DFID, or members of Britain’s Department for International Development under the auspices of the United Nations Development Program. This adds legitimacy to the survey’s findings, distancing it from the politicized government-run NURC.

If we trust the results of the barometer, it is simply a fascinating study, rich with information for our class – especially the findings on “Understanding the Past” (59-62), “Transitional Justice” (63-72), and “Social Cohesion” (73-88). I highly recommend looking through the tables in these sections, but some highlights in terms of the Gacaca courts include:
– 93.7% of respondents agree that most of what happened during the genocide has become known through the processes of the Gacaca, and 83.4% indicated that they believed in the impartiality of Gacaca judges.
– 89% felt that the punishments received by perpetrators were fair, while 70.8% of respondents felt that genocide survivors were fairly compensated.

The almost overwhelmingly positive numbers throughout the survey definitely spark some incredulity, which might point to methodological shortcomings. However, one figure stands in stark contrast to the rest of the results: a significant percentage of respondents (39.9%) believe that there are people in Rwandan society that would still perpetrate acts of genocide if given the opportunity (58). Does this finding negate the rest of the study? Does this sense of personal insecurity and distrust demonstrate a failure of reconciliation processes in Rwanda?

Is Rapid Development in Rwanda a Good Thing?

On the Gacaca Courts clip we watched today, the police chief said that, due to the genocide, Rwanda missed out on some development and advancement that was experienced by other states. She said that, because of this, Rwanda has to speed things up. It has to move faster. I think this is an interesting concept when it comes to Rwanda. From my understanding, much of the development that has gone on has been underwritten by aid or conflict, and its execution has not been very equal.

In a paper published through the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation, a claim was made that:

“Only 17% of medical personnel work in rural areas while the remaining 83% work in urban locations (HRRF et al, 2009). This figure is especially poignant when, according to the World Bank (2012), 81.1% percent of Rwanda’s total population resides in these underserved rural areas. Therefore, a little less than 19% of the population has access to 83% of health care personnel. According to Sahn and Stifel (2004), this “urban bias” leads to higher rates of infant mortality and malnutrition of adults and children and decreased access to contraception, lifesaving medications, and neonatal care.”

This alleged disparity in access to healthcare is biased, as the majority of the rural population is Hutu.

Additionally, the Rwandan military and government have been accused of profiting from the conflict in Eastern Congo. For example, many have heard of the mineral coltan, which has been one of Rwanda’s moneymakers. Critics of Rwandan government claim that Rwanda has been stealing coltan and selling it on the international market.

To me, these two forms of income do not seem sustainable. Should Rwanda be developing with a reliance on stolen goods and foreign aid? Will this be good for their reconstruction in the long run? With recent aid withdraws, Rwanda is already seeing a large portion of their money supply being removed from their expected “income.” What are the repercussions of developing in these relatively illegitimate ways?

Victoire Ingabire Gets Sentenced Under Rwanda’s Genocide Ideology Law

The BBC reported today that Victoire Ingabire has been sentenced to eight years in jail by the Rwandan court system. Ingabire was jailed in 2010 when she returned to Rwanda from exile to run against President Paul Kagame in the 2010 elections, which were undemocratic to say the least. Among other charges, like “threatening state security” and “terrorism,” the latter of which were dropped, she was charged with “belittling the genocide.” This last charge, which was filed under the genocide ideology law, seems quite problematic.

In her speech, Ingabire stated her belief that the reconciliation of and emotional recovery of all Rwandans is necessary. She also stated that she does not believe there is a policy in place to allow for this, because Hutu deaths are not being memorialized, when there were, in fact, many Hutus who were killed as well. Her statements were illegal under the genocide ideology laws, so she was arrested. Some believe that this was highly politically motivated, as she was one of the primary opposition leaders who wanted to run against Paul Kagame in the 2010 elections.

It is laws and policies like these that make reconciliation difficult. Also, it is my understanding that, since the genocide, it has been deemed illegal to ask someone if he or she is a Hutu or a Tutsi. The argument is that this will unify Rwandans. Instead of being Hutus or Tutsis, they are Rwandans. I believe that these methods of ignoring the necessity for ethnic sensitivity in reconciliation policies could end up hurting Rwandans more than helping.

Here is what I believe to be the controversial part of her speech:

“But then again, if you look around you realize that there is no real political policy to help Rwandans achieve reconciliation. For example, if we look at this memorial, it only stops at people who died during the Tutsi genocide. It does not look at the other side – at the Hutus who died during the genocide. Hutus who lost their people are also sad and they think about their lost ones and wonder, ‘When will our dead ones be remembered?’

“For us to reach reconciliation, we need to empathize with everyone’s sadness. It is necessary that for the Tutsis who were killed, those Hutus who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it. It is also necessary that for the Hutus who were killed, those people who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it too. Furthermore, it is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.”

Rwanda and UN Security Council

Last week, it has been reported that Rwanda will hold one of the five non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. In his interview for NPR with the Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, one of the things brought up by host Michael Martin is that a “firm hand” is necessary in government to stave off ethnic conflict. Mushikiwabo’s response is that yes, in fact, it is and that President Kagame has been one of the better leaders to help Rwanda gain its current success. I find this to be somewhat of a conflict of interest, especially when viewed side by side with Victor Peskin’s account of victor’s justice in the case of the ICTR. Fearing indictments of the officials of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, Kagame’s government banned travel for the witnesses asked to testify in the hearings. According to Peskin, “The government’s decision to bar witness travel was one of the most damaging acts of noncompliance in the history of both ad hoc tribunals” (225, Peskin). Rwanda’s actions received little criticism and the UN Security Council was slow to respond to the official appeal of the government’s actions.

How is it, that a country so set on working against the UN-sanctioned Tribunal meant to help fix the terrible wrongs that occurred, is welcome with open arms into the UN Security Council?

The Issue of Maintained Impunity for Rwanda

While I was in Rwanda this past summer, a report was leaked about Rwanda’s alleged sponsorship of the M23 rebel group in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda’s tumultuous neighbor to the west. (For some background, read this.) Surprisingly, this conflict is still in the news. I say that this is surprising, because there has been a general trend of the international community ignoring over a decade’s worth of human rights abuses going on between those two countries and in the region as a whole. Additionally, another report has just come out stating Uganda’s involvement in the conflict.

There is a long list of reasons why Rwanda should not be sponsoring this rebel group. For starters, it’s illegal on many grounds according to international legal standards. First of all, there is an arms embargo in place for the DRC, so any supply of arms to this country is illegal. Second of all, the motivating issue for the M23 rebel group is supposedly a Congolese issue, which is one of the reasons Rwandan President Paul Kagame has given in his denial of M23. Also, Bosco Ntaganda, the leader of the Rwandan sponsored rebel movement, which many argue is a spin-off from the CNDP, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. These are all blatant violations of international law that have been committed by the Rwandan government.

How has the international community’s allowance of Rwandan impunity affected its post-conflict transformation? I believe that this impunity afforded to Kagame and his government has led to its ability to and justification for maintaining a conflict over the border in the DRC for many years, contributing to the deaths of a vast number of Congolese people. This regional instability cannot be good in a region where the argument for comprehensive transitional justice is a very strong one.

Musings on Rwanda and Edmund Burke

In hopes of gaining a better understanding of this week’s material, I decided to watch Hotel Rwanda. For those of you who may not be familiar with the film, it tells the true story of a young Hutu luxury hotel manager named Paul Rusesabagina, who harbored approximately 1,000 Hutu and Tutsi refugees in his Kigali hotel during the genocide – including his own Tutsi wife and three young children.

Unsurprisingly, the film is tragically thought provoking. I was surprised, however, by the part of the movie that I found most disturbing. It wasn’t the scene in which Paul happens upon a road littered with hundreds of massacred bodies, nor was it the scene in which the UN envoy in which they are traveling is attacked by Hutu soldiers armed with machetes. The scene that hit me the hardest was a conversation between Paul and a UN peacekeeper. The peacekeeper, with tears in his eyes and anger in his voice, tells him that no intervention force will be sent to stop the slaughter.

The next day, the Europeans at the hotel board a bus to be evacuated. They stare out at the hundreds they are leaving behind, and turn away.

We will never know who knew what when, or with what degree of certainty, but this realization made me pause. While we discuss the trials and sentences of war criminals, of international justice, we should not forget our own hand in these events. Paul’s actions saved hundreds of people – the decency of one is all that is required to save lives. Our tacit acquiescence in the peace of our comfortable lives is not a justifiable defense for inaction.

As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”

After the Holocaust, we said never again. I hope these are words we can begin to live by.