News / Africa

Rwanda Criminal Tribunal Pleased With Progress

Yves Kamuromsi - only 13 when the Rwandan genocide occurred - now heads the documentation center at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Rwanda, and said sharing the experience with other survivors helps everyone, November 2011.
Yves Kamuromsi - only 13 when the Rwandan genocide occurred - now heads the documentation center at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Rwanda, and said sharing the experience with other survivors helps everyone, November 2011.

With the sentencing this week of two former Rwandan politicians for their role in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal continues its work of trying the masterminds of the violence.  In its 17-year history, the tribunal has achieved a number of firsts.  

Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Edouard Karemera, president and vice-president of Rwanda’s then-ruling party, will be spending the rest of their lives behind bars for turning a blind eye to the atrocities committed by their party’s youth wing, the Interahamwe.

They join some 21 others currently serving sentences following trials in which they were found guilty of such charges as genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

Seventeen years ago, the United Nations set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to catch the so-called “big fish,” or high-level organizers, of a methodical, systematic campaign aimed at wiping out the Tutsi ethnic group.  An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during several months in 1994.

Since its beginning, the tribunal has indicted 92 suspects and has passed down judgments against 72 people.  These include former government ministers, army commanders, diplomats, journalists, and other Rwandan elite.

Tribunal spokesman, Roland Amoussouga, says the capture and trials of the genocide’s architects have brought about what he calls a “credible and on-going process of national reconciliation and healing” in Rwanda.

“If they were not arrested, God forbid, nobody knows what could have happened to the peace and stability in Rwanda.  At the beginning, when they were not all arrested, there was trouble in most parts of Rwanda,” he said.

Amoussouga says the tribunal’s efforts have complemented Rwanda’s justice system.

In Rwanda, one of the most prominent justice activities has been the setting up of traditional `gacaca’ courts to conduct trials of people accused of committing murder, rape, looting, and other crimes during the genocide.  An estimated 1.5 million cases have been heard since 2001, mostly at the village level.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has achieved a number of firsts.  It was the first international court to convict someone of genocide.

On June 24 of this year, the former Minister of Family and Women’s Development, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, was sentenced to life in prison.  Amoussouga says her conviction sets her apart.

“She was indicted for rape as (a) crime of genocide and she was the first woman to be arrested for genocide, for crimes against humanity.  All these made her unique,” Amoussouga said.

She was tried alongside her son, who is also now behind bars for life.

Amoussouga says the tribunal has built up, in his words, a “substantial body of jurisprudence” on such concepts as “genocide,” “crimes against humanity,” and “war crimes” that can be used in courtrooms in other jurisdictions.  He says the tribunal has also built up an extensive databank of historical evidence of the Rwandan genocide.

But the tribunal has had its share of challenges and criticisms.

Carina Tertsakian is senior researcher at Human Rights Watch in London.  She says that the process has been, in her words, “slow and cumbersome,” too bureaucratic, and punctured with many delays.

But, says Tertsakian, the most serious shortcoming is an omission to confront atrocities committed by a rebel group at the time that forms Rwanda’s current government.

“One aspect in which it (the tribunal) has failed is to prosecute cases of crimes committed by the Rwanda Patriotic Front, the ruling power currently in power in Rwanda.  The Rwandan government has put very, very heavy pressure on the various ICTR prosecutors over the years to drop investigations into RPF crimes, and one by one, sadly, they have succumbed to that,” Tertsakian said.

At the end of 2008, Human Rights Watch sent the tribunal’s prosecutor, Justice Hassan B. Jallow, a letter urging the court to investigate reports of revenge killings of thousands of civilians by the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

The tribunal is set to wind up its work in 2014.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid