Why Rudasingwa won't change the ICTR
By Michael McGehee at Nov 09, 2011
|The Obama's meeting with one of America's biggest mass-murdering clients: |
Rwanda's President Paul Kagame
Even though the international jurist, Richard Goldstone, has said the 1994 assassination of Rwandan President Habyarimana was "clearly related to the genocide" the role of Paul Kagame's Rwandan Patrtiotic Front (RPF) in carrying out the attack has often been played down. Now a former aid to Kagame, Théogène Rudasingwa, is "demanding" that he get to testify to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on knowledge he has about "the most pivotal event in the 20th century whose consequences remain tragic almost two decades later.” Rudasingwa, the former Secretary General of the RPF says Kagame personally admitted to the assassination.
While this testimony is certainly welcome, to be honest, it won't change anything. The ICTR is first and foremost a political institution, not a judicial one. It has been constructed to serve the political interests of the West, in particular the U.S. A look at the judgement and sentencing of Bagosora et al, on December 18, 2008 demonstrates this. The focus is on "Hutu extremists," and particular accusations against four men, "the Accused." The historical context of the "genocide," as we are told in the judgement, "precede the Tribunal’s temporal jurisdiction." What happened before January 1, 1994 is "irrelevant" to the court. Even the crimes of the RPF are "irrelevant." (See below for reproduction of "DEFENCE VIEWS ON THE CAUSES OF THE EVENTS IN 1994.")
Despite the fact that the court acknowledges that "a cycle of ethnic violence against Tutsi civilians has often followed attacks by the RPF or earlier groups associated with Tutsis, such as Union Nationale Rwandaise party," or that "[f]ollowing the October 1990 RPF invasion, there were mass arrests as well as localised killings at the time and in subsequent years in several northern communes and the Bugesera region," and despite the fact that the court ruled that "the alternative explanations for the events have added relevant context to a few allegations against the Accused," there is just one problem: "they are irrelevant to the core issues in this case, namely whether the Accused are responsible for the specific criminal allegations charged against them."
So while the tribunal admits that the military preparations that the prosecution said was proof of a genocidal plan was "consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle," and that "in the context of the ongoing war with the RPF, this evidence does not invariably show that the purpose of arming and training these civilians or the preparation of lists was to kill Tutsi civilians," or that when you view the creation of lists and arming and training of civilians "in the context of the immediate aftermath of the RPF’s violation of the cease fire agreement, it does not necessarily show an intention to use the forces to commit genocide," the focus is still on "the Accused," and not the RPF for the responsibility of what transpired.
In other words, that "the Accused" are innocent of planning a genocide, and that what happened is "consistent with preparations for a political or military power struggle" due to an RPF invasion in 1990, that after more than two years of terror by the RPF resulted in a power-sharing government that recognized the RPF as a legitimate force, but also in a cease fire that the RPF violated—which would explain why the Rwandan government kept "lists" of Tutsis and armed and trained civilians in the north (they were being attacked by invading forces)—the men are still guilty of "genocide" because atrocities against Tutsis occured after the RPF assassinated their president and began a massive invasion which resulted in massacres of Hutus. Any Tutsis killed by Hutus following the invasion and power struggle are "genocide," whereas the targeting of Hutus by the RPF from 1990 onward is "irrelevant."
There is simply no other reason for why the ICTR is so selective in its focus than that it is a kangaroo court trial. Bearing in mind that Kagame has close ties to the U.S. government, who was instrumental in creating the ICTR at the UN Security Council, and that even according to UNSCR 955 the trial was created at "the request of the Government of Rwanda," who is apparently behind the ICTR's "temporal jurisdiction" considering UNSCR 955 said the tribunal should be for crimes committed "between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994." Which is why Ed Herman and David Peterson wrote in their book, The Politics of Genocide, that: "Although it has failed to convict a single Hutu of conspiracy to commit genocide, the ICTR has never once entertained the question of an RPF conspiracy—despite the RPF’s rapid overthrow of the Hutu government and capture of the Rwandan state."
It would be as if some American terrorist trained at military schools of foreign governments (Paul Kagame was trained at Fort Leavenworth), created a terrorist army in Canada with close ties to its military, invaded the U.S., and then assassinated the president, and overthrew the government in an orgy of destruction that lasted 100 days, creating a massive refugee crisis whereupon the invaders chased them into foreign countries and slaughtered them in absolute barbarism, and that the American forces who committed massacres in response to the campaign of terror and invasion were singled out as genocidaires and tried in an international tribunal, as requested by the new dictatorship, and that restricted its "temporal scope" to the crimes of its victims, and dismissed the historical context and crimes of the invaders as "irrelevant."
That is what has happened. Paul Kagame is a mass-murderer serving U.S. interests by reinstating colonialism (it was the Belgians who put the Tutsi minority in power), blocking the emergence of democracy in the region (as a part of the Arusha Accords, elections were to be held in 1995 and Kagame had an incentive to avoid the elections since demographics make it clear the Tutsi's would not return to power), and ensuring the natural resources are at the disposal of the U.S. empire. His 1990 invasion, and violation of the Arusha Accords, and assassination of Habyarimana, and April 1994 invasion and coup, and the expansion of the war into the Congo (where Rwandan forces killed hundreds of thousands of Hutu refugees, sometimes right in front of international forces) have all gone unpunished, while the crimes of the RPF's governmental and military victims have been picked over and the perpetrators brought to "justice."
* 7. DEFENCE VIEWS ON THE CAUSES OF THE EVENTS IN 1994
The Defence has offered alternative explanations during the course of trial and in their Closing Briefs concerning the events which unfolded in Rwanda after the death of President Habyarimana. In particular, it has stressed that there was no plan or conspiracy by the former Rwandan government or military to harm civilians between April and July 1994. Instead, according to the Defence, the wave of civilian killings that swept the country during this period was triggered by a number of other factors.
According to the Defence, the RPF’s invasion in October 1990, its repeated violations of ceasefire agreements and strategy of guerrilla-war and infiltration were important causes of the events. The RPF’s military strategy was not aimed at democratisation or the return of the Tutsi refugees to Rwanda, but to restore Tutsi domination by seizing power by force. It was this strategy, fully realised with the RPF’s victory in July 1994, that initially destabilised the Habyarimana regime and then sparked the widespread and predicted reprisal killings of civilians after 6 April 1994.
In the Defence’s view, the failure of the Arusha Accords was also a significant factor. The major barrier to the implementation of this agreement was RPF’s intransigence. Although pretending to accept and abide by them, the RPF in reality sought absolute, rather than shared, power. Throughout the peace negotiations, the RPF was already threatening war and preparing a military build-up. In contrast, President Habyarimana and his entourage did not oppose the Arusha Accord. The Rwandan military also took effective steps toward their implementation and the integration of its forces with the RPF.
Furthermore, the history of politically-motivated violence in Burundi in the two decades prior to 1994 provided examples of massive killings of Hutu civilians by a Tutsidominated military, and thus established a precedent for mass-killings associated with challenges to political power that were known to all people living in Rwanda. The assassination in October 1993 of the first elected Hutu President, the massacres of tens of thousands of civilians by the Burundian Tutsi-dominated army, and the resulting 350,000 refugees that entered Rwanda, created an atmosphere of fear and mistrust in the region that, according to the Defence, made negotiated power-sharing impossible. The assassination of the Hutu Presidents of Burundi and Rwanda on 6 April 1994 showed that the majority Hutu population could not depend on the Tutsi minority to share power in a democratic process.
The Defence argues that the RPF shot down President Habyarimana’s plane on 6 April 1994 with the aim of plunging the country into civil war. It thus created a pretext to decisively seize power. The RPF knew that the resumption of war would lead to massive civilian casualties, in view of the Burundian experience, warnings from the international community, as well as the prevailing tension in the country resulting from its initial invasion and military activities. The RPF and its superior military forces also prevented the Rwandan government and military from quelling the massacres by diverting their resources to the war effort. It also rejected ceasefires, ordered its forces not to intervene to save civilians and blocked the intervention of an international force. All of this was part of the RPF’s war-plan and ensured that civilian killings would continue unabated. Therefore, the Defence submits that the RPF bears responsibility for planning and triggering the massacres which unfolded in Rwanda, not so-called Hutu extremists.
Finally, the Defence submits that crimes were committed by the RPF in areas occupied by its forces or where combat was occurring.
The Prosecution rejects these arguments as mostly irrelevant and submits that they serve primarily as a diversionary tactic. It further contends that the evidence underlying the Defence’s alternative explanations, in particular the opinions of its experts, is based on incomplete information, discredited sources and a questionable methodology. With respect to the shooting down of the President’s plane, the Prosecution emphasises that this is not charged as a crime in the present case. While it may have been a catalyst for the crimes committed afterwards, it certainly was not the root cause. Furthermore, given the numerous competing theories for who was responsible, as well as the conflicting information, the Prosecution is not satisfied that such a case could be brought to trial. Finally, the Prosecution’s charges relate to the Accused’s individual criminal responsibility for specific offences. The question of whether the RPF also committed crimes or should have been charged, therefore, has no bearing on the case against them.
One of the main purposes of the Defence’s alternative explanations for the events is to undermine the Prosecution’s theory that the Accused planned and conspired before April 1994 to commit the genocide which unfolded after the death of the President. The Chamber has taken into account these arguments, as well as the evidence underlying them, in assessing the allegations underpinning the Prosecution’s case for conspiracy. In particular, the Prosecution has pointed to evidence of the Accused’s role in defining the enemy, their participation and statements in various meetings, the preparation of lists, the creation of civilian militias and the Accused’s purported role in clandestine organisations. As discussed in that section and the legal findings on conspiracy, the Prosecution has not proven this charge beyond reasonable doubt.
The existence of the armed conflict and the periodic resumption of hostilities between October 1990 and April 1994 did provide a context for the Chamber’s assessment of the preparation of lists and the creation of civilian militias, which raised some doubt as to whether they were at their inception intended for genocidal purposes. However, in all other respects, the alternative explanations had little relevance to the Prosecution’s specific allegations that there was a conspiracy.
Another aim of the Defence arguments is to show that the killings which occurred after the death of the President were somehow spontaneous with primary responsibility lying with the RPF which allegedly triggered the events. The Chamber does not exclude that there were a certain amount of spontaneous reprisal killings by members of the population in Rwanda. The evidence reflects that there was a prevailing climate of ethnic and political tension and mistrust at the time. It is also perfectly possible that some killings reflected the settling of old scores between certain individuals. However, the Accused are not being tried for such crimes. Rather, the core of the charges against them is anything but spontaneous. They are accused of a series of specific crimes perpetrated mostly by soldiers, including elite units, often acting in conjunction with militiamen. The evidence shows that these were organised military operations ordered at the highest levels. Therefore, a full consideration of the evidence of the specific crimes charged against the Accused reflects that the Defence’s alternative explanations have no or limited relevance to the Prosecution’s case.
The attack on President Habyarimana’s plane is not charged as a crime in any of the Indictments. There are multiple theories concerning who is responsible. The Chamber has permitted the Defence to adduce some evidence related to this event as background. It remains, however, a collateral issue in the case. The Defence has presented a body of evidence suggesting that the RPF was responsible for the attack. In view of the Prosecution’s position with respect to the attack and its limited significance, this evidence has not been adequately tested through cross-examination by an interested party or through rebuttal evidence, and the Chamber therefore has no view on who the perpetrators may have been. Even assuming that the RPF were responsible, it would not have any bearing on the Accused’s criminal responsibility. The attacks for which they have been held responsible were organised military operations directed at civilians. There can be no justification for this even if the opposing military force commenced the hostilities.
To the extent that the Defence’s alternative explanations aim to raise doubt about whether a genocide occurred in Rwanda, the submissions are without merit. A review of the evidence related to the crimes underpinning the charges amply demonstrates that the perpetrators acted with genocidal intent. Leaving aside the particular facts in this case, it is clear that a genocide occurred. The Tribunal has convicted a high number of individuals in completed cases for genocide committed in various parts of the country. The Appeals Chamber has even concluded that the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 is a fact of common knowledge which there is no reasonable basis to dispute.
Finally, with respect to crimes committed by the RPF, a main concern for the Defence is the apparent imbalance in the Prosecution strategy to date in failing to indict RPF members allegedly responsible for humanitarian law violations in Rwanda during 1994. The Chamber fails to see how this would exculpate the Accused for their own alleged crimes. Furthermore, Article 15 (2) of the Statute reads: “The Prosecutor shall act independently as a separate organ of the International Tribunal for Rwanda. He or she shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other source.” It is beyond the scope of Chamber’s task to evaluate the Prosecutor’s overall strategy.
Furthermore, the Defence has not pointed to any evidence with respect to the crimes for which the Accused have been held accountable showing that the RPF may have committed them. Regarding the allegation that the RPF may have committed crimes in Rwanda other than those charged in the Indictments during the same period, the Appeals Chamber has held that “it is well established in the jurisprudence of the Tribunal that arguments based on reciprocity, including the tu quoque argument, are no defence to serious violations of international humanitarian law”.
In sum, the alternative explanations for the events have added relevant context to a few allegations against the Accused. For the most part, however, they are irrelevant to the core issues in this case, namely whether the Accused are responsible for the specific criminal allegations charged against them. To read more of my blogs please visit: Truth Addict