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contribution 05 - NEWBURY Catharine

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RPF prosecution

Catharine NEWBURY

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I would like to thank André Guichaoua and the organising committee for holding this Conference and bringing together this impressive group to reflect on the achievements of the ICTR during the past 15 years. Special appreciation also to Sylvie Capitant and Christophe Golay for arranging for our travel and taking such good care of us here in Geneva.

Let me first say that having this opportunity to observe the lively discussions and debates over the past two days has been an extraordinary experience. I appreciate the candid assessments provided by current and past personnel from the different parts of the Tribunal, as well as the lawyers and the witnesses who have spoken. We have all learned from your willingness to share these insights, to reflect on what the Tribunal has been able to achieve and the lessons learned.

Among the positive achievements of the Tribunal is that it is, indeed, impressive that justice has been done. As Judge Byron reminded us at the beginning of this conference on Thursday, the ICTR has had the important responsibility of developing international rules and responsibility for violations of human rights. The ICTR has done much to give international judicial institutions legitimacy.

Your efforts have sent a message to perpetrators that they cannot count on impunity. Your efforts have reassured victims that there is some recourse.

As was noted yesterday by Rwandan colleagues here, victims do feel consolation knowing that those who planned and executed the genocide in Rwanda were not untouchable “gods” after all. There was recourse, and there has been a process to bring them to book, to demand accountability for what they did. That is thanks to the ICTR.

This is a source of solace also to scholars like myself with long ties to Rwanda. As a scholar, I applaud the achievements of the ICTR because I am convinced that what you have done, what you are doing is important for the advancement of international justice. I also very strongly agree with what Claudine Vidal just mentioned about the importance of preserving the Kinyarwanda texts of the witnesses. You have constructed a body of information that is extremely valuable, and it’s very important to see to its careful preservation for the future.

There is another, more personal aspect. Since the early 1970s, I have been researching and writing on Rwanda. People who died in the genocide were not abstract statistics. For my husband and me, some of the victims were people we knew well; our daughter had played with their children. When we mourn the deaths of those killed, these include close friends we had known for decades, as well as colleagues and acquaintances.

In the few minutes I have left, I would like to address the question of the impact of the ICTR in Rwanda—the question of victims and the aspect that was mentioned by Claudine Vidal: can justice lead to reconciliation? Can the justice delivered by the ICTR promote reconciliation, or is it mainly a form of apaisement?

In her book "Leave None to Tell the Story" (Human Rights Watch, 1999), Alison Des Forges strongly supported the establishment of the ICTR, as all of you here know. Many of you knew Alison well. She supported the proceedings of the Tribunal by testifying on many occasions. In her book, in the section on justice and responsibility, she stated: "The resolution establishing the Tribunal included crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions within its mandate. As yet the Prosecutors have taken no action against the RPF soldiers who might be accused of such crimes, a circumstance which has provoked little commentary from major international actors but which risks undermining the credibility of the Tribunal." (Des Forges, pp. 744-745). That was written ten years ago.

In the chapter on the RPF in her book, Alison provides details on some of the alleged crimes by RPF soldiers. She notes, for example, the findings of investigations carried out by Robert Gersony and his three‑person mission after the genocide in 1994.

Alison explains, "Although he [Gersony] and his team did not set out to gather information on RPF abuses, they became convinced in the course of the work that the RPF had engaged in, ‘clearly systematic murders and persecutions of the Hutu population in certain parts of the country’’" (Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés, “Note, La Situation au Rwanda,” Confidentiel, September 23, 1994, p. 4; cited in Des Forges, p. 727).

Then Alison continues, "From August 1 through September, 1984, the team visited ninety-one sites in forty-one communes of Rwanda and gathered detailed information about ten others. In these places as well as in nine refugee camps in surrounding countries, they conducted more than 200 individual interviews and another one hundred discussions with small groups. They found the information provided by witnesses detailed and convincing, and they confirmed the most important parts of accounts by independent sources in other camps or inside Rwanda" (p. 727)

Among the findings of the Gersony team were data on alleged RPF massacres after meetings convoked by the authorities, that is, the new authorities who took power in July 1994. These massacres occurred especially in three préfectures: Butare, part of Kigali, and Kibungo, and particularly in areas near the border.

Alison further explained that the Gersony team reported on "murders committed by assailants who went from house to house, and the hunting down and murder of people in hiding. They also reported ambushes and massacres of persons trying to flee across the border to Burundi. They stated that the victims were killed indiscriminately, with women, children, the elderly, and the handicapped being targeted as well as men” (p. 727).

The conclusion of the Gersony team was that "the great majority of these killings had apparently not been motivated by any suspicion whatsoever of personal responsibility of participation by victims in the massacres of Tutsi in April 1994" (Haut Commissariat des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés, “Note, La Situation au Rwanda,” Confidentiel, September 23, 1994, p. 4; cited in Des Forges, p. 727).

The findings of the Gersony report dovetail with reports I heard from refugees in Tanzania. During the summer of 1994, my husband and I happened to be on mission in Dar es Salaam from our university. We took that opportunity to visit the large refugee camp at Ngara in the western region of Tanzania.

Our visit to the camp occurred after the RPF had taken power in Kigali. According to Rwandan refugees who had arrived recently in the camp, fleeing through Burundi, violence continued in the eastern areas, in Kibungo préfecture. These people felt it necessary to flee for their lives. They reported incidents of people being called by RPF soldiers to public meetings on the promise that food would be distributed. But then those who attended such meetings were killed.

In “Leave None to Tell the Story” Des Forges estimates that maybe 30,000 people were killed in these types of incidents, and other operations described by the Gersony report. Rwandans who lived through this period would probably suggest a bigger death toll if you take into account people in Byumba, for example, who are said to have disappeared in large numbers in areas of controlled by the RPF.

So my question is this: Can justice be seen to be done if the ICTR simply ignores these alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity by RPF soldiers? People in Rwanda know of this, even if they cannot talk about it openly.

How can you have reconciliation if you cannot talk about these things? It would be most helpful if Mr. Jallow could explain where things stand with the investigation of these alleged crimes of RPF soldiers. He did mention that this morning, and yet it seems to me there is more to be said. What indictments does the ICTR have in mind in this regard, in the months that remain? What will Mr. Jallow say to the victims of these crimes? Do they not also deserve to have justice done?

It is important for the ICTR to address these issues. To do so would enhance the reputation of the ICTR, providing a legacy with important lessons for the ICC. Not to address these issues regarding alleged crimes by RPF soldiers leaves the Tribunal open to the charge of providing only victor’s justice. Most of all, addressing these issues is a way to have, indeed, a telling impact within Rwanda—to transform how the ICTR is regarded, offer a fitting legacy for this novel initiative in international justice, and provide solace to the broad spectrum of victims—who then could see that justice is being done.

Thank you.


Thank you very much for your presentation. Ultimately, it echoes the discussion that we had from the beginning. The specter that hangs over the Tribunal, the specter of victor’s justice, that also hangs over international justice as a whole. So that is the typical criticism that is leveled at it and which is appearing here again in this specific case, even though we should recall that it is not exclusive to the ICTR.

Today we may still ask ourselves a number of questions, even on the activities for the ICC. So it is a major challenge, present and future, for international criminal justice. Rwanda commits its credibility.

So, on that note, I will give the floor to Professor Lars Waldorf, the Director of the Human Rights Institute in London.