Special to NaomiWolf.org, written by D. H. Kerby
The Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations held a symposium at U. N. Headquarters on Tuesday, June 3rd, in the chamber of the Economic and Social Council about the contribution of post-genocide justice to reconciliation in that country, examining how judicial mechanisms, both traditional and more contemporary, help to bring about harmony.
The symposium was addressed by diplomats, by Mr. Hassan Bubacar Jallow, the prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, and by a genocide survivor. Busingye Johnston, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Rwanda, was unable to attend. Under discussion (among other topics) was how the Gacaca courts, traditional Rwandan fora for conflict and dispute resolution, compare to the ICTY and the Rwandan national courts in delivering truth, justice, and reconciliation. The Gacaca courts are informal and do not have strict rules of evidence.
The symposium was introduced by Jeanne d’Arc Byaje, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Republic of Rwanda. One participant asserted that traditional courts would have taken more than a century to deal with the atrocities. It was asserted that the 1994 genocide destroyed the judicial structures of Rwanda, and its social fabric.
150,000 women were raped during the genocide, and one of the precedents set by the post-genocide legal proceedings established rape as a feature of genocide. Many of these women were infected with HIV when they were attacked.
Incitement was also a topic on which a precedent was set, as mass media executives were prosecuted for their role in whipping up sentiment against the Tutsis. “The Tribunal’s ‘Media case’ in 2003 was the first judgment since the conviction of Julius Streicher at Nuremberg after World War II to examine the role of the media in the context of international criminal justice,” according to the website of the United Nations.
Writing in The New York Times on December 3rd, 2003, Sharon LaFraniere described the conduct of media during the genocide: “In the first verdict of its kind since the Nuremberg trials, an international court today convicted three Rwandan news media executives of genocide for helping to incite a killing spree by machete-wielding gangs who slaughtered about 800,000 Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda in early 1994.”
She went on to write that “A three judge panel found that the three defendants used a radio station and a twice-monthly newspaper to inflame ethnic hatred that eventually led to massacres at churches, schools, hospitals and roadblocks. The radio station, dubbed Radio Machete in Rwanda, guided killers to specific victims, broadcasting the names, license plate numbers and hiding places of Tutsis.”
Mr. Olivier Nduhungirehe, Deputy Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations, was one of the diplomats who addressed the group.Vandi Chidi Minah, The Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone, spoke to the symposium as well, saying that courts are “stylized” and cannot deliver true reconciliation, and that many of the causes of civil strife (in his country) are not dealt with yet.
Genocide suspects gained release from shame by confessing to the Gacaca courts, according to Hassan Bubacar Jallow, Prosecutor of the ICTR, though these courts were also criticized for lack of due process.The release from shame was, according to Jallow, missed by participants in the ICTY. The Gacaca courts were important in that through them the truth was often discovered.
According to Miguel de Serpa Soares,Undersecretary General for Legal Affairs, politically moderate Hutus were killed along with the Tutsi; in addition to the tribal dimension of the genocide, there was an ideological one as well.
Mr. Jallow said that the ICTR indicted 93 senior people, convicted 63, and acquitted 12. The 93 were “leading personalities” and had been “beyond the reach of Rwanda,” he said. “Judicial notice” meant that the prosecution didn’t have to prove that genocide took place.The ICTR referred cases to the Rwandan national courts in cases where there can be no death penalty.
According to Jallow, Sweden, Germany, Canada, and the United States all had people sent for trial.
Through the Gacaca courts, victims learned the fate of their relatives and were able to bury them in dignity. Some survivors who testified in Gacaca courts were killed in reprisal for their testimony.
Vandi Chidi Minah , The Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone, said that “victims have a right to the truth,” and that reconciliation is achieved through restorative rather than retributive justice, that child soldiers are both victims and perpetrators, and implied that Christianity and Islam coexist peacefully in his country.
The symposium heard from a survivor of the 1994 genocide. Some survivors who testified in Gacaca courts were killed in reprisal for their testimony.
She was 9 years old in 1994, and witnessed women, men, and children being murdered.Men were trying to kill her.Four brothers and two sisters were murdered by Hutu neighbors at a nearby river. She said that in the aftermath, survivors were grateful for the ICTR and the Gacaca courts. Between the opening of the Gacaca courts and 2012, when they closed, they helped to fight a culture of impunity, she said. Survivors were critical of the ICTY, from which they felt somewhat alienated because it was based in Tanzania.They were also troubled by meager sentences given by the ICTR.There was an absence of economic and social support for survivors, she said and recommended that the establishment of a trust fund for victims be considered.
She would appear not to have forgiven. As with all victims, that is certainly her prerogative.
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