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Group Warns Against 'Victor's Justice' in Rwanda Genocide

A human rights group chastises the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for failing to prosecute any officials of the Tutsi military group that eventually ended the 1994 genocide, despite allegations of planned civilian killings on its part. Human Rights Watch warns the court will lose credibility if only one side of the conflict is prosecuted.

The group is calling on the chief prosecutor for the United Nations-backed court to try senior Rwandan Patriotic Front officials before the court's tenure draws to a close next year.

The London director for Human Rights Watch, Tom Porteous, explains the group's letter to the chief prosecutor.

"The International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda has done a good job in prosecuting perpetrators of the genocide in Rwanda, but we feel that it should turn its attention to members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who committed very serious violations - crimes against humanity, war crimes - in the aftermath of the genocide," Porteous said.

Porteous suggests that unless the court tries both sides of the conflict, the court's mandate for neutral justice will be unfulfilled.

"So far the ICTR has failed to prosecute any senior Rwandan Patriotic Front officers, and this we feel will undermine the credibility of the ICTR," he said.

Led by now-president Paul Kagame, the Tutsi RPF overran the Hutu militias orchestrating the genocide in Rwanda and effectively ended the three-month massacre of ethnic Tutsi and moderate Hutu. The RPF has held power in Rwanda since securing the nation in 1994.

While the vast majority of the 800,000 deaths in 1994 were committed by the radical Hutu militias, a U.N. agency has alleged that the RPF was also responsible for 25,000 to 45,000 civilian deaths.

Human Rights Watch claims that the court holds ample evidence linking the upper ranks of RPF to some of the retaliatory civilian killings. The group suggests that the chief prosecutor may be caving in to political pressure from the RPF-led Rwandan government.

The group says that the few prosecutions by the Rwandan judiciary against members of the RPF for the post-genocide violence have focused on low-level officials and have ignored evidence that the attacks may have been directed from high up the military chain.

The Tanzanian-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was established by the U.N. after the 1994 genocide to try the suspected criminals of the Rwanda violence according to international standards of justice.

In a letter responding to Human Rights Watch, chief prosecutor Hassan Jallow rebuffs the group's accusations, denying that political intimidation from the Rwandan government was stifling prosecutions of RPF officials.

Jallow confirmed that his court has indeed focused on the Hutu perpetrators of the genocide since that was the main purpose for the court's creation. He said that hundreds of those responsible of the genocide are still at-large and have not yet been indicted or arrested by the court.