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contribution 32 - MUKESHIMANA Florida

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Difficulty of testimony


transtlated version

Thank you, Professor. My name is Florida. I’m a survivor of the genocide and the political massacres in Rwanda in 1994. And I must say that from the creation of the Tribunal, the ICTR, I express a desire to testify before the Tribunal. I wrote in number of letters from friends to ICTR, to the United Nations, to any other institutions to testify to what I witnessed.

So I was summoned by the ICTR 12 years later on and I replied positively, because I considered it my duty to testify. But from coming in from Brussels I was a bit afraid. I wanted to be protected. So this brings me back to the issue of protected and unprotected witness. And we were put in place to ensure the protection of my daughter and I. When we got to Arusha, we had a discussion with the Office of the Prosecutor, those in charge of my case file. I decided to testify in full view. So from that point on there was no guidance. There was nobody at my side. And I told myself it is not because I have decided to testify in full view that I can no longer be terrorised or that I am entirely free of danger. So I just wanted to point out that aspect.

But what shocked me I insist on the word shocked during my visit to Arusha is that witnesses who are victims are demonised. And, honestly, I must say that my testimony in Arusha left a bitter taste in my mouth. I had the impression that the objective of the Defence lawyers, who are paid by the United Nations, was not to seek the truth but to clear their client’s by all means, without any consideration whatsoever for the survivors who come to testify.

Normally, when one goes to testify, one expects to have the floor and to testify calmly and to be treated in a humane manner to enable one to give one’s testimony. I may cite a number of personal examples of my testimony there.

At some point, the Prosecutor asked me to say whether the text contained in the document that I had forwarded to the Tribunal was a speech that my husband had delivered. At that point, I was attacked. I was told that I had no right to be there. I had no right to talk about the text. And besides, it was my husband who was supposed to discuss the text. And the Defence counsel knew very well that my husband had been murdered. So I told myself, well, this is a rather shaky start. Maybe there is no point in going ahead.

Subsequently, I was attacked because, according to the Defence, I was testifying to what I had read in Alison Des Forges’ book, which is titled "no witness should survive." So they claimed that I was repeating what I had read in the book. But I told them, "Look, I was in Rwanda during the genocide. I had experienced firsthand the events that preceded the genocide. So I saw all these things."

And I must say that my husband was at the political forefront. I followed everything. I supported him. So I could feel the political pulse of the country. I am a Rwandan. And so I wondered why a legal practitioner, what right they had to attack me and claim that I was repeating what I had read. And I may insist on the fact that it is right that books and newspapers immortalised events and facts, but the testimony of persons who witnessed the events is important. So I did not understand it.

Let me cite another example. I was asked to describe the circumstances that surrounded the arrest of my husband, so I had to explain how it happened. The Defence counsel told me that I had to say, I had as to state that it was the RPF soldiers who had killed my husband. I explained that I saw the soldiers who arrested him. But he kept repeating it about seven times to get me to admit that my husband was arrested by RPF soldiers. He even went as far as to say that Minister Ndasingwa was one of the persons killed by the RPF. So he tried to compel me to repeat it, and he was saying, "Madam, admit, admit that it was the RPF that killed your husband."

So you can imagine the stress in which I found myself. If someone keeps repeating the same thing to you five, ten times, it’s some kind of brainwashing technique.

After my testimony in Arusha, I went to Rwanda because I was wondering whether it was my personality that had upset the Defence or it was some thing that was suffered by all victims. So I spoke to some victims who had testified in Arusha, and they all said that they remember that they had been demonised and frightened by the Defence and that they were attacked in the inner most, in the most intimate part of themselves, and their dignity was really trampled upon.

So I insist on saying this here because there was mention of trauma. When we returned to Brussels, my daughter and I, we had to seek the services of a physician because we went through a difficult time in Arusha. That was for the Defence.

Now, let me say something about the ICTR. When I got to Arusha, I asked why all my letters had not been replied to, letters I had forwarded through friends who had suffered the same fate as myself to Rwanda. I remember that our children had also written to the United Nations. I asked them why there had been no response to our letters, and I was told that they did not have that kind of document. So I went back to Belgium and photocopied all the documents, all the letters, all the files that I had prepared since 1994 and forwarded them to Arusha. Three months after, a representative of the ICTR came to Brussels and asked me the same questions that he had asked me in Arusha. I have always testified that Madam Valerie Migeot can bear me out that I’m ready to testify whenever I’m required to do so, because I think it is my duty. And I told him, "Sir, I cannot say anything more," because I was tired of saying the same things over and over, whereas I knew that there were documents in the possession of the ICTR.

That is all what I can say, but there are a lot of things to say. You know, maybe I should just stop there.


Thank you, madam, for your testimony, which I find moving. Maybe I’ll give the floor to the Defence this time to defend itself. It is not mandatory.

Madame Condé?