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Rwanda: Recent Documents, 2
Rwanda: Recent Documents, 2
Date distributed (ymd): 970824
Document reposted by APIC
This posting contain (1) excerpts on Rwanda from the latest issue of
Impunity-Info, published by International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic
Development, and (2) excerpts from a July 1997 report by Physicians for
Human Rights on Eastern Congo and Western Rwanda.
More detailed and more frequent updates on the Great Lakes region from
a variety of sources can be obtained on the Web at
(Excerpts from V. 2, n. 1, July 1997)
Published four times per year by the International Centre for Human
Rights and Democratic Development (ICHRDD), 63, rue de Bresoles, Montreal,
Quebec, Canada H2Y 1V7 Tel. (514) 283-6073; Fax: (514) 283-3792; e-mail:
email@example.com; Web: http://www.ichrdd.ca
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to Include Charges
The presentation of an amicus brief to the Prosecutor of the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to bring charges of rape and other
crimes of sexual violence in the trial of Jean-Paul Akayesu has proven
to be a significant achievement in efforts towards accountability and prosecution
for gender-based violence and for the overall protection of the human rights
of women. As a direct result of the amicus brief filed by a group of women's
and human rights NGOs in May 1997, the Prosecutor of the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda amended the indictment against Jean-Paul Akayesu
a few weeks later. Where before the indictment did not consider at all
the evidence of crimes of sexual violence, the amended indictment now includes
charges of rape and inhumane treatment. More importantly, this amendment
recognizes rape as a crime against humanity and as a war crime which brings
to the forefront gender-based crimes particularly in war and conflict situations.
The amicus brief, prepared by Joanna Birenbaum and Lisa Wyndel of the
Toronto-based Working Group on Engendering the Rwanda Tribunal; Rhonda
Copelon of the International Women's Human Rights Law Clinic of the City
University of New York; and Jennifer Green of the New York-based Center
for Constitutional Rights, recalled factual testimony presented to the
trial and probative evidence available to the Tribunal through human rights
investigative reports on the prevalence, purposes and effects of rape and
other sexual violence in the Rwandan Commune of Taba under the authority
of then Mayor Jean-Paul Akayesu. The brief called on the Prosecutor to
consider amending the indictment accordingly, as well as improving the
quality of the investigations to include proper attention to crimes committed
against women. ...
The brief is available in French or English at the International Centre
for Human Rights and Democratic Development. Contact Stephanie Rousseau.
A Coalition on Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situation
An NGO Coalition on Women's Human Rights in Conflict Situations has
been formed and is presently housed within the International Centre for
Human Rights and Democratic Development. ... If you are interested in receiving
the [Coalitions's] newsletter or joining this Coalition, write or phone
Stephanie Rousseau at the International Centre (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Trials Continue Before Arusha Tribunal
The trial of Georges Rutaganda is proceeding before the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, while that of Jean-Paul Akayesu, which began
in January 1997, has been postponed until October following a claim by
the defense lawyer who said he had problems finding witnesses prepared
to testify on behalf of his client. ... A Swiss court has ordered the transfer
of another genocide suspect, Alfred Musema, to the Tribunal in Arusha,
Tanzania. Musema is accused of having brought armed groups to the Bisesero
area, in western Rwanda, and ordered them to attack Tutsis. The indictment
claims that Musema personally attacked and killed some of the Tutsi victims,
who had worked at the Gisovu tea plantation. ...
Rwandan Domestic Prosecutions Continue, Despite Criticisms
The president of the UN Security Council said the body is worried about
the deteriorating prison conditions and inadequate judicial system in Rwanda,
following a briefing by assistant secretary-general for political affairs,
Ibrahima Fall, in May 1997. "Members of the council expressed concern
over the continuing deterioration of prison conditions, lack of proper
legal protection and the poor judicial system and called upon the Rwandan
government to improve the situation in this regard," said Park Soo
Gil. He also said that Security Council members had stressed the importance
of the Rwandan government's co-operation with the international tribunal.
The statement followed a report from the UN Centre for Human Rights,
in Geneva, criticizing the progress of genocide trials in Rwanda. The Centre
said it was concerned about the security of lawyers, prosecutors, judges
and witnesses in the trials, which began in late-December 1996. In six
months of activity, the Rwandan courts have not managed to try even 100
of the accused. Approximately 90,000 are said to be in detention awaiting
Of those already tried, a handful have been acquitted, but most have
been sentenced to death. Executions have not yet taken place, although
the Minister of Justice recently published regulations governing capital
sentences, a necessary step before they can take place. Rwanda's vice-president
and defence minister, Paul Kagame, has admitted that the justice system
is far from perfect. But "trials are better than no trials,"
he said, and "criticisms will serve to make us work harder and better
the justice system."
INVESTIGATIONS IN EASTERN CONGO & WESTERN RWANDA
A Report by Physicians for Human Rights, 100 Boylston St., #702, Boston,
MA 02116. Tel: 617-695-0041; fax: 617-695-0307; e-mail: email@example.com.
For more information contact Richard Sollom at PHR's Boston office (617-695-0041)
or Holly Burkhalter at PHR's DC office (202-547-9881).
(Note: the following consists of excerpts from a much longer report,
available on the Web at
The full report includes additonal material on Eastern Congo as well as
PHR has been deeply concerned about atrocities in this region since the
onset of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In that year, PHR called for an
international tribunal to prosecute those responsible for leading the slaughter
of an estimated 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Rwandan army
(ex-FAR), Interahamwe militia, and Hutu civilians. Subsequently, PHR assisted
the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda by exhuming the mass grave
at Kibuye where more than 450 bodies from a single grave produced evidence
of the brutal killing of unarmed men, women, and children. PHR recognizes
the threat to stability and security in the region posed by the international
community's failure to disarm and bring to justice those responsible for
the 1994 genocide who remained in and retained control of the refugee camps
in Eastern Zaire/Congo during the past two years. ...
- Pervasive insecurity and widespread atrocities and human rights
abuses currently characterize the entire region of Eastern Congo and Western
Although civil war has officially ended in former Zaire/Congo, the region
remains destabilized. Widespread insecurity and fear pervade Eastern Congo
as well as Western Rwanda, where there is currently an unreported civil
war taking place. All local citizens, refugee and displaced populations,
and international staff are affected and constrained by these conditions.
Atrocities and human rights abuses of many kinds are ongoing throughout
the region. ...
In Western Rwanda, a clandestine war (which has intensified over the
past two months) between the Rwandan government and organized Interahamwe
and ex-FAR (former Rwandan Armed Forces) has rendered the countryside off
limits for civilian travel and subjected the local (predominantly Hutu)
population to risks of direct attack and killing by the Rwandan military.
The Rwandan government perceives threat from many directions. Military
roadblocks are frequent; the sense of surveillance is omnipresent. Local
citizens, staff from international organizations, and visitors move about
in Kigali, its environs, and the western region with a continual awareness
that they are being observed and subject to peremptory questioning or arrest.
According to the ICRC Information Officer in Kigali, during the last
three months at least 2,000-3000 civilians have been killed as a result
of the fighting in Western Rwanda. The entire area of northwestern Rwanda
is considered completely unstable; travel for expatriate staff is considered
very unsafe, as such personnel appear to be directly targeted. Estimates
of numbers being killed are inexact, based on both information from trusted
local people who dare to furnish information to the ICRC and whatever hospital-based
data the ICRC can acquire. ...
In Western Rwanda, the civil war has created such insecurity in the
areas of Ruhengeri and Gisenyi that the UN has drastically curtailed access
to the region. At least nine UN and NGO staff people, both local and expatriate,
have been killed in Western Rwanda in the last six months. No one from
the international press has traveled to this area in the recent past, although
reports of the war have been broadcast on local radio. Information regarding
the conduct of the war, the fate of local villagers, the numbers and kinds
of casualties has thus been difficult to obtain. PHR received reports that
military casualties are considerable in the area. The PHR team traversed
this region by UNDP convoy, escorted by three trucks of armed Rwandan military
-- one day after another convoy had been ambushed, allegedly by Interahamwe.
The atmosphere was tense, radio communication taut, and the pace as rapid
as the switchbacks would tolerate.
The local population (predominantly Hutu), and especially recent returnees
from Congo, live in fear of arbitrary arrest as collaborators in the 1994
genocide and incarceration in one of the 18 prisons or 150-200 cachots
(detention facilities) in the country. Soldiers and other armed personnel
are present in all towns, along the roads, and in all official buildings
and places of population activity, such as markets and crossroads. ...
5. A state of civil war characterizes the situation in Western Rwanda,
and the United States should condemn ongoing human rights abuses by Rwandan
military and disclose the U.S. security relationship with Rwanda.
Due to the presence of both Rwandan government forces and insurgent
forces in the region, the war between these two opposing sides is ongoing
and has spilled over into Rwanda on a more dramatic scale since the repatriation
of the Rwandan refugees from Congo. Since the beginning of 1997, the civil
war in Western Rwanda has dramatically escalated, leading to a larger number
of casualties on both sides of the conflict and to a greater death toll
among civilians. As in Eastern Congo, both sides are indiscriminately attacking
and abusing civilian populations in their bid for military advantage. The
international community has yet to recognize this state of affairs. Nor
has it proposed remedies, despite the involvement in and victimization
of both Rwandan and Congolese citizens by both sides of the conflict in
PHR is concerned that in addition to failing to recognize publicly a
civil war in Western Rwanda, the U.S. government has failed to disclose
fully its role in supporting the Rwandan government in its conduct of the
war. Based on interviews with U.S. officials and military personnel, as
well as first-hand observations and public information (both prior to and
during the recent mission to the region), PHR is aware that U.S. Army Special
Forces have been training Rwandan military in Rwanda since at least early
1996. The number of these U.S. military personnel has varied in witness
accounts from 12 to more than 100 present in Rwanda at any given time.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, U.S. security assistance to Rwanda
has included reconciliation group training, de-mining, civic affairs, small-scale
non-lethal military assistance, and U.S. Special Forces training. PHR is
particularly concerned that this U.S. military training has included counter-insurgency
operations and cross-border surgical strikes.
6. The international community should desist from repatriating Rwandan
refugees from Congo into Western Rwanda because of an ongoing civil war
The international community and the UNHCR have focused attention on
the human rights abuses in Eastern Congo. Less attention has been directed
to the difficult issue of repatriating refugees to the adverse situation
now existing within Western Rwanda. These refugees are now returning to
a wholly insecure environment, where in many instances, they become immediate
targets for retribution from the Rwandan government forces. This process
with these potentially deadly consequences contravenes the cornerstone
of international refugee law, the principle of non-refoulement. ...
The return of several hundred thousand Rwandan refugees since November
1996 has resulted in a number of security and custodial problems for the
Rwandan government. In particular, the existence of 150 to 200 prison and
detention facilities throughout the country, holding an estimated 120,000
to 140,000 people (not only recent returnees, but also large numbers arrested
soon after the 1994 events) accused of participation in genocide, poses
a major burden on the government, the local communities, and the decimate
Rwandan judicial system. In interviews with senior staff in the international
organizations responsible for overseeing the welfare and due process issues
of these detainees, and in interviews with a Rwandan official with overall
jurisdiction for the detention centers in Ntongwe Commune in Gitarama,
the PHR team learned that few of these hundreds of thousands of people,
overwhelmingly men, have formal dossiers prepared against them and that
many of them have been in holding facilities, designed only for the most
temporary stays, for periods ranging from six months to over one year.
PHR received reports that up to one-quarter of all recent Rwandan returnees
from Congo have been detained, often on unsubstantiated grounds of having
participated in the 1994 genocide. ...
8. The international community should provide urgent assistance to
help rebuild the economy and infrastructure of Rwanda.
In Rwanda, the genocide and war have taken a serious toll on the economy
and infrastructure. The PHR team noted in particular a number of health
care issues that have arisen as a result of the impoverishment of the population,
the decimation of its professional class, and the collapse of its immunization
program. Malnutrition is considered to be the major underlying problem
haunting the general population, particularly children. Health care facilities
are grossly understaffed and supplies are inadequate. Diarrheal disease,
upper respiratory infections, malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS are the major
illnesses and, according to international as well as local officials, appear
to be increasing in incidence. ... Finally, the psychological burdens of
coping with the terrible recent past and the losses it has created are
mentioned by all observers as perhaps the most pressing and least understood
of all problems affecting every sector of the population.
An immediate consequence of the austere circumstances is that international
aid to the returning refugees, whether via the transit camps, in the villages,
or in the prisons and detention facilities, is viewed with rancor by national
and local officials. Without an increase in reciprocal aid to the non-refugee
population, communal antipathies will continue to be aggravated by this
CONCERNS RELATED TO U.S. POLICY
The United States is an important ally of the Government of Rwanda,
providing the government with extensive economic support, security assistance,
and strong diplomatic support. Regrettably, human rights in Rwanda and
in Congo, where the Rwandan Army has committed serious abuses, have taken
a back seat as the U.S. has moved to establish close relations with governments
in both countries.
The U.S. Embassy in Rwanda strongly backs the Kagame government, openly
downplays human rights concerns and minimizes reports of human rights abuses,
and is perceived by international humanitarian agencies as distinctly unsympathetic.
An American official in the U.S. Embassy told PHR that he supported the
Rwandans' thwarting of a United Nations mission to investigate atrocities
in Congo, and he defied PHR to produce evidence of serious violations of
human rights in Rwanda or Congo.
Whereas U.S. officials have condemned human rights abuses in Congo and
have conditioned aid to the new Congolese government on improvements in
human rights, no such linkage has been made to U.S. aid to Rwanda. This
disparity is troubling, given the clear evidence that PHR has found of
Rwandan involvement in gross violations of human rights of unarmed Rwandan
refugees in Congo and of Congolese themselves, either those suspected of
aiding the refugees, or Congolese Hutu who were singled out because of
their ethnicity. ..
The U.S. Government is providing military assistance in the form of
aid and training to Rwanda. ... U.S. officials have characterized part
of this training program as a human rights program aimed at "professionalizing"
the Rwandan forces. If that is the case, then the evidence -- both in Rwanda
and in Congo -- is that it has been a failure. Abuses against civilians
have been rampant in both countries. Serious questions need to be asked
about whether the United States is therefore implicated in these atrocities.
PHR is not opposed in principle to human rights training and aid to
foreign military forces. But it is not a substitute for a command decision
on the part of the local military authorities that abuses against civilians
will not be tolerated, and that commanders and the men under their command
who engage in them will be prosecuted and punished. Not only have the Rwandan
authorities not prohibited and punished those responsible for such abuses
in Rwanda over the past two years, they have exported the abuses to neighboring
Congo in the military campaign to pursue the Interahamwe and ex-FAR.
Under such circumstances all U.S. security assistance to Rwanda should
be conditioned until such time as all Rwandan forces implicated in abuses
are removed from Congo, human rights abuses against non-combatants in Congo
cease, and their perpetrators disciplined. And the establishment of a military
aid program for Congo should be postponed until such time as President
Kabila exercises appropriate control over the forces under his command,
and has ordered foreign troops from Congolese soil.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the Africa
Policy Information Center (APIC), the educational affiliate of the Washington
Office on Africa. APIC's primary objective is to widen the policy debate
in the United States around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa,
by concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant information and
analysis usable by a wide range of groups and individuals.