You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Rwanda’ tag.

In their article, How Mass Atrocities End: An Evidence-Based Counter-NarrativeAlex de WaalJens Meierhenrich, and Bridget Conley-Zilkic examine the narrative frameworks that inform today’s agenda of “protection of civilians” in conflict:

 1. A teleological assumption that the occurrence of attacks against civilians will, unless halted or deterred from outside, inevitably escalate towards genocide.

2. An epistemological assumption that privileges coercive military operations conducted on humanitarian grounds by international forces.

3. An ethical imperative based on the above teleology and epistemology that forecloses the historical and political discussions of how mass atrocities actually end.

Using comparative evidence from a variety of cases, beginning with the Holocaust and continuing through Libya, they then provide “a counter narrative to the dominant civilian protection agenda by returning to the historical record of how mass atrocities end.”

As to the first point, Jens Meierhenrich (pictured above) has put forth a general framework for studying genocide termination that contests this teleology. He argues for separating genocidal acts, campaigns, and regimes to better distinguish between different endings and, significantly, how each informs different policy options. In addressing the aforementioned epistemological assumption, the authors divide the ending of mass atrocities into five categories: 1) violence halted by the perpetrators once goals are met; 2) elite dissension or exhaustion within the perpetrator regime; 3) victims of violence flee or otherwise resist; 4) interventions waged by interested outside parties; or 5) humanitarian intervention.

Finally, questioning the ethical imperative, the authors relate a question that they deem to have been inadequately engaged by policy experts and researchers alike: How does one recognize when genocide or mass atrocities end? As they explain, “This question, let alone the equally, if not more complicated, question of how such violence ends has been caught up in the normative assumption about how they ought to end.”

While an optimal ending of mass atrocities is outlined as one in which vulnerable civilians are rescued, perpetrators are punished, and the state is justly reconstructed to address the conditions that enabled violence to occur, actual endings can rarely be described as optimal. But it is important to pay attention to what forces have played a tangible role in ending violence in order to garner a better understanding of how to interact with complex situations, what tools might achieve which exact goals, and a realistic expectation in terms of ending mass atrocities when this objective is obscured by competing agendas.

The authors describe some endings as being “the successful completion of a genocidal campaign, called off when the perpetrator regime is consolidated or when the political landscape alters such that the political rationale for mass violence against civilians is reduced. Other endings occur when the genocidal regime is removed from power, through successful resistance or invasion, or is fought to a standstill . . . Some endings are simply respite—a gap between genocidal campaigns conducted by a regime with an intact apparatus of mass violence.”

The article concludes by contending that the current undertaking of preventing genocide seeks to go beyond this singular aim to decisively resolve conflict and achieve transitional justice. Instead of the sole and default response of establishing a new regime “with ethical credentials commensurate with the horror that preceded it,” the authors’ approach “[. . .] eschews arguing from ‘ought’ to ‘is,’ and instead addresses the complexities of real politics and develops a rich comparative evidence base.” It seeks practical responses in the details of particular circumstances as opposed to deriving analysis and policy from universals that stem from moral impulses. Ultimately, such an approach should result in more effective prevention policymaking and reactions.

Photo: lseinternationalrelations.wordpress.com

Advertisements

* Yesterday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) convicted former Rwandan mayor Gregoire Ndahimana of genocide and crimes against humanity, sentencing him to 15 years in prison. Ndahimana was convicted of the killings at Nyange parish, which was bulldozed while 2,000 Tutsis hid inside during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, by virtue of his “command responsibility.” In April 2001, an indictment was issued against Ndahimana, who was found hiding in Congo in 2009.

* In Bangladesh, five men in charge of Jamaat-e-Islami, the country’s Islamist party, are facing charges of crimes against humanity, which carry the death penalty. The trial is being held under a version of the country’s International Crimes (Tribunals) Act of 1973, wherein government investigators have wide-ranging rights to detain and question, while suspects lack the usual rights to information and legal advice. Recently, there have been reports of defense lawyers and witnesses being harassed. Further developments, as outlined by Human Rights Watch, include the arrest of one key defense witness and the preparation of criminal charges against nine more. Furthermore, media reports are admitted with no forensic scrutiny. Lastly, the court has rejected a petition of recusal against its own chairman, who had been involved in a contentious inquiry into Jamaat’s alleged liability for atrocities.

* The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) has ruled that 79-year-old Ieng Thirith, former Social Affairs Minister for the Democratic Kampuchea, is unfit to stand trial and ordered her unconditional release. Thirith was on trial for genocide and other crimes against humanity along with her husband and other former leaders of the 1970s Khmer Rouge regime.

When the Arab Spring began 10 months ago, the world witnessed the transformative power of social media. But since then, individuals across a plethora of disciplines have sought to define its exact role in bringing attention to, preventing, and/or ceasing mass atrocities. To that end, the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies recently hosted a conference, “The Promise of the Media in Halting Mass Atrocities.” At this event, the Canadian International Council interviewed Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy, Canadian senator Roméo DallaireDispatches host Rick MacInnes-Rae, and André Pratte, editor-in-chief of La Presse. 

In discussing the extent to which social media, and more specifically, Twitter, helped bring about the Egyptian revolution, Mona Eltahawy was hesitant to recast last January’s events as the so-called ‘Twitter revolution.’ Social media is merely an instrument; change on that significant a level is driven by people, by feet on the ground. She went on to say that Twitter was used in Egypt to communicate with and connect to the outside world, not for internal organization. Eltahawy said that SMS played a bigger part, as more Egyptians have cell phones and send text messages than use Twitter. Furthermore, Eltahawy posits that the fact that Mubarak shutting down the internet didn’t affect him being ousted from power further proves that it wasn’t vital to the cause, but just a singular tool.

Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire (pictured above), former commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), believes that the 1994 Rwandan genocide occurred as the result of a lack of both information and political will. There was no interest or expertise in the area, and media and public attention was focused on events unfolding in Cambodia and Yugoslavia. When asked if today’s arsenal of communication methods would have changed the course of events had they been available back then, Dallaire points out that electricity is still a major issue in developing countries. That notwithstanding, more methods of disseminating information would have been crucial. He explains that radio was the culture in Rwanda, not television or even newspapers. Dallaire was also asked about the application of R2P in Libya, a situation in which he feels the international community failed to call Qaddafi’s bluff. Qaddafi used similar language as had been employed in Rwanda and the responsibility was to protect the moderates and prevent a bloodbath. Accordingly, he says the intent of R2P needs to be clarified.

In his interview, Rick MacInnes-Rae says that while Canada may not actually have invoked R2P as a justification for the Libyan intervention, it nonetheless accomplished “what R2P would have wanted.” He then raises the issue of motive, i.e., protecting civilians or protecting access to resources, as he believes that will be raised as part of the aftermath discussion. He thinks that in such situations, social media can be used to activate opposition and that the media has no real role in R2P, only a journalistic mandate.

Also asked about about R2P in Libya, André Pratte says it is too early to say if it was a success. He spoke of assessing the short-term goals in those scenarios, and then addressing what happens when the intervening powers leave. In terms of the role of social media, he sees it as being used for coverage and opening a window, especially where journalists have limited or no access.

Photo: edhird.wordpress.com

In September 2005, three mass graves were discovered in Rutshuru, in North Kivu province of eastern Congo. Two years later this discovery led to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and then UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan initiating a mapping exercise to investigate atrocities committed in the country between 1993 and 2003. The concluding report (click here for an interview with one of the report’s authors, Jason Stearns) was published in October 2010. Now, one year later, Human Rights Watch is calling on governments the world over to bring the perpetrators of the atrocities to justice.

Addressing the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Congo between March 1993 and June 2003, the mapping report describes the role of all responsible Congolese and foreign parties, including military or armed groups from Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, and Angola. The Congolese government drafted a law to create a specialized mixed court, comprised of both international and domestic staff, but the Congolese senate rejected the proposal, despite support from Congolese civil society groups. Meanwhile, the governments of the other named African nations, as well as the UN, have failed to take decisive action.

Human Rights Watch has urged the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General to confer with the Congolese government, as well as the other governments named in the report and international legal experts, about how to ensure accountability for the crimes. Human Rights Watch is also calling on UN member states to support the Congolese government, financially and politically, in setting up mechanisms to try those responsible for the crimes.

Photo: csmonitor.com

* France continues its policy of carrying out mass evictions and expulsions of Roma, despite a warning from the European Commission, as well as a threat of EU sanctions, over a year ago. On September 29 Human Rights Watch made public a briefing paper it sent to the European Commission regarding the inadequacy of an immigration law France passed this year in June. The new law, designed to address the European Commission’s grievances, was deemed adequate by the European Commission in August, but Human Rights Watch says it in fact targets the Roma: “The law allows authorities to expel EU citizens for ‘abuse of rights’ if they have been in France on repeat short-term stays or are in France ‘for the fundamental purpose’ of benefiting from the social assistance system. This flies in the face of EU law, which allows citizens of member countries to stay in any EU country for up to three months without conditions.” Around 9,500 Roma were expelled in 2010, according to French government figures. In the first three months of this year, 4,714 Roma were expelled.

* Three protesters were killed in Guinea on September 27, on their way to a demonstration against parliamentary elections slated for December, which they say will be a sham. Amnesty International points out that the murders occurred on the eve of the second anniversary of 2009’s stadium massacre in Conakry, the nation’s capital. This underscores the continuity of violent tactics in Guinea’s recent history, despite the capitulation of military rule, which followed the contested election in 2010 that put current president Alpha Condé in power. “If this recurrent excessive use of force by police is to be stopped, it is essential to put an end to the climate of impunity that appears to be prevailing in Guinea,” said Paule Rigaud of Amnesty International. On September 27, Human Rights Watch reported that no one has been held to account for the 2009 massacre by Guinean security forces, which resulted in the death of 150 people and the rape of more than 100 women. A UN-led International Commission of Inquiry concluded, in 2009, that the Guinean government’s actions could be described as “crimes against humanity.”

* Former Rwandan public service minister Prosper Mugiraneza and his trade counterpart, Justin Mugenzi, were convicted by the ICTR on September 30 of complicity to commit genocide and incitement to commit genocide. Africa Review points out that the sentence comes 12 years after their arrest in 1999, and 8 years after the start of their trial in 2003. The ICTR acquitted two other ministers of the same charges due to lack of evidence. The trials, held in Arusha, Tanzania, address the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that claimed the lives of over 800,000 people in the span of 100 days.

Photo: turkeymacedonia.wordpress.com

* In discussing case studies of the use of the Responsibility to Protect concept (R2P) in Côte d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of CongoAlex Vines highlights the importance of regional bodies, such as the Economic Community of West African States, and the cohesiveness of interventionists. R2P was deployed in Côte d’Ivoire because of the fear that significant numbers of civilians were at risk, whereas R2P has not been applied in Congo because a UN mission partially charged with protecting civilians already exists. Vines maintains that R2P, despite the popular understanding of it, is about more than military force, since in many cases it is better not to engage militarily.

* In a novel attempt at genocide prevention, North Carolina State University researchers are hoping to use a population’s health and prenatal care as an identifying risk factor. In analyzing the remains of Bosnian Muslims from the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and analyzing epidemiological data from the World Health Organization on Rwandan and Yugoslavian refugees, the researchers found high frequency of malnutrition, poor health, inadequate prenatal care, and related problems across these populations. NCSU researchers consider these conditions strong indicators of genocide risk because they are illustrative of the population’s marginalized societal status.

* In order to better prevent and respond to genocide and other mass atrocities, President Obama last month ordered an interagency review with the goal of creating an Atrocities Prevention Board. For the board to be effective, Professor Walter Reich of George Washington University argues that it must include independent experts from outside the government—such as specialists in international affairs, international law, and human rights.

Photo: unmultimedia.org

* Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have gathered evidence that the Sudanese government has committed war crimes in South Kordofan State, just north of the newly established border of South Sudan. Researchers from both organizations investigated 13 air strikes by the Sudanese government in the Nuba Mountains region, despite a ceasefire announced by Sudan’s president Omar al-Bashir on August 23. The bombing campaign began June 5 in Kadugli. Witnesses and victims in South Kordofan described indiscriminate bombing and the use of anti-personnel mines in civilian areas void of any legitimate military targets, leading human rights organizations to call the acts a violation of international humanitarian law. Despite a mounting humanitarian crisis, President Bashir announced on August 23 that no foreign aid agencies would be allowed into South Kordofan. The Famine Early Warning Systems Network has classified the food and livelihood situation of those affected by the conflict at the “Crisis” level, one below “Emergency.”

* Despite requests for a dismissal by the Kenyan government, the International Criminal Court decided today to proceed with the case against six high-ranking Kenyan government officials, on charges of crimes against humanity, murder, forcible transfer and persecution, and rape during post-electoral violence in late 2007. The defendants are Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, deputy prime minister and minister of finance; William Samoei Ruto, minister of higher education, science and technology; Henry Kiprono Kosgey, minister of industrialization; Joshua Arap Sang, head of operations for KASS FM radio; Francis Kirimi Muthaura, head of the public service and secretary to the cabinet; and Mohamed Hussein Ali, who was police commissioner at the time of the violence. The December 2007 violence resulted in 1,100 people killed, 3,500 injured, and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced.

* “The United Nations–backed tribunal in Cambodia (ECCC) dealing with mass killings and other crimes committed under the Khmer Rouge three decades ago began its fitness hearing today into the health of two of the ageing defendants currently on trial,” the UN News Centre reported August 29. The hearing included two top Khmer Rouge officials implicated in the 1975–79 genocide. The allegations against Ieng Thirith, 79, the former social affairs minister, and Nuon Chea (also known as “Brother Number 2”), chief policy architect of the Communist Party of Kampuchea (CPK), include genocide, murder, torture, religious persecution, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Ieng Thirith was found to be “cognitively impaired,” which would compromise her rights to a fair trial. Nuon Chea was declared fit to stand trial.

* The Kigali Institute of Education (KIE), a teacher training college in Rwanda’s capital yesterday held a one-day forum on the prevention of genocide called “Teaching Genocide and Community Cohesion: From Theory to Practice.”  The workshop, run in partnership with Britain’s University of Nottingham, is geared towards teaching students and teachers the basics of genocide prevention, as well as the importance of building and spreading community cohesion, in the hope of preventing a repetition of the genocidal events of 1994.

Photos (from top): unitednews.com.pk, historyplace.com

* In a report titled “You Don’t Know Who to Blame: War Crimes in Somalia,” Human Rights Watch claims that all parties involved in the country’s ongoing conflict—al-Shabaab militants, Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces, African Union troops, and government-aligned militias—have “committed serious violations of the laws of war that are contributing to the country’s humanitarian catastrophe.” These violations—which include indiscriminate artillery attacks, arbitrary arrests and executions, and the extortion and abuse of refugees—have made aiding those affected by the war and the famine more difficult. Human Rights Watch called on all parties to protect civilians and requested that international donors to the TNG establish “clear human rights benchmarks” to help ensure the government begins to abide by international humanitarian law.

* The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a report today documenting human rights violations during the conflict in the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. While both the rebels and the government are implicated, the report attributes a majority of the violations to government forces, which have purportedly targeted civilians during military operations, executed and arrested suspected rebel members, and indiscriminately bombed villages. Unconfirmed sightings of mass graves outside the city of Kadugli were also documented. The United Nations has called on Khartoum to allow international monitors to perform unhindered investigations into these allegations.

* During a press conference on Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters that the government is prepared to work with the international community to establish “an international commission” to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity committed by the Burmese government during its clashes with ethnic rebels. This announcement comes shortly after thirteen female U.S. Senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which they called for action against the Burmese regime for its use of rape as a weapon of war. “We are prepared to work to establish an international Commission of Inquiry through close consultation with our friends and allies,” Nuland stated.

* Following a meeting of the African Prosecutors Association, chief prosecutors from a number of African countries have vowed to step up their efforts to find, arrest, and extradite fugitives wanted for crimes committed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. One way they hope to do this is through a greater level of intelligence sharing on the whereabouts of suspected criminals. There are reportedly 110 “indictments and appeals for arrests” still out for individuals suspected of being involved in Rwanda’s genocide.

Photos (from top): bar-kulan.com, Peter DiCampo/Pulitzer Center, news.az

In an interview yesterday, Edward Luck, special adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General for the responsibility to protect, offered wide-ranging comments on the concept of R2P, past, present, and future.

In explaining R2P’s origins, Luck cited massacres like the Rwandan genocide and Cambodia’s “killing fields,” which made clear the need for a framework of principles to help protect civilians while taking into account the international system’s deep-rooted notion of state sovereignty. R2P, as conceived in 2001, seemed to present a perfect middle ground, and according to Luck its evolution has so far been successful.

Apart from NATO’s heavily criticized intervention in Libya, and the mixed outcome of Côte d’Ivoire, Luck says R2P has helped in Kyrgyzstan and Guinea, although these cases received less media coverage. In Libya’s case, he argued, most of the negative response has focused on the use of force, which isn’t R2P’s main goal and therefore shouldn’t be the litmus test of its success.

“For us the job isn’t response, the job is prevention,” Luck said. “Many people think that responsibility to protect is all about the use of military force after the bodies start piling up. For us, that isn’t morally acceptable.”

On the topic of Syria, Luck discussed why it is that R2P was applied to help the Libyans while the Syrian people seem to have been abandoned, explaining it mainly in terms of the influence of regional organizations.

In Libya’s case, Luck said, “the Arab League, the African Union, the Gulf Cooperation Council, all acted before the Security Council did. . . . In this case it was really the way the [UN] Charter had meant it to be: the parties and then the regional bodies first try to resolve the differences.” This contrasts with Syria, where support for intervention from regional organizations has been absent.

Luck also cited the language used by Qaddafi, who referred to protesters as “cockroaches” and said he would “cleanse Libya house by house.” Assad, on the other hand, has been more careful. “We listen to what leaders say as well as watch what they do,” Luck said.

Speculating on R2P’s future, Luck says he hopes and believes that, rather than meeting its demise, R2P will become so absorbed into the way states think of their responsibilities, and so much a part of civil society, that his office at the UN “simply could go out of business.”

The interview fails to mention one glaring issue: namely, the Sudanese state of South Kordofan. By all accounts the regime in Khartoum, since June 5, has engaged in illegal policies that target civilians of specific ethnic groups for torture and arrest and murder. Criticism has been hurled at the UN and its member states for their lack of action and avoidance of the issues—as Luck himself does in the interview.

Genocide scholar Samuel Totten, who has written extensively on Sudan, wrote an opinion column last week arguing that South Sudan fits all the requirements for R2P intervention. Yet, he wrote: “the international [community] largely plays dumb, claiming ‘I see no evil’ and ‘I hear no evil.’ The latter, of course, conveniently translates into, ‘Thus, I do not need to deal with evil.’ Such a position is totally antithetical to the concept of The Responsibility to Protect. Indeed, it is akin to seeking an easy (and unconscionable) way out of acting responsibly.”

In contrast to Luck’s optimistic view of the future of R2P, Totten declared that it was “on the verge of becoming a dead letter.”

Rwanda: ICTR refers genocide case to Rwandan courts

On Wednesday, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) referred one of its cases to the Rwandan judicial system. The case is that of Jean-Bosco Uwinkindi, a Rwandan Pentecostal pastor charged with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, and extermination as a crime against humanity. He was arrested in Uganda in June 2010 and has been in the tribunal’s custody since July of that year.

Previous requests for referral to the Rwandan courts were rejected by ICTR judges on the basis that a fair trial could not be guaranteed. In this case, however, the court noted that “Rwanda had made material changes in its laws and had indicated its capacity and willingness to prosecute cases referred by the ICTR adhering to internationally recognised fair trial standards enshrined in the ICTR Statute and other human rights instruments.” Uwinkindi’s referral is the first one granted since Chief Prosecutor Hassan Bubacar Jallow filed three new transfer requests based on his determination that the legal climate in Rwanda had changed enough to allow fair trial for the accused.

In their ruling, the ICTR judges requested that the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights be appointed to monitor the Rwandan proceedings for fairness.

The ruling, which Rwandan pro-government daily The New Times labeled “a vote of confidence in the Rwandan judicial system,” follows the UN Security Council’s Resolution 1966 asking the tribunal to find ways to wrap up all cases by 2014.

Africa: Civil society groups urge governments to support ICC

A report by African civil society groups and international organizations working in Africa calls on African member states of the ICC to cooperate with and continue supporting the actions of the International Criminal Court. Titled “Observations and Recommendations on the International Criminal Court and the African Union,” the report criticizes AU requests for delays in ICC prosecution of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir and in the investigation of Kenya’s 2007-08 post-election violence, and condemns AU reluctance to support Security Council Resolution 1970 on Libya.

The organizations, numbering 125 and based in more than 25 countries, make seven recommendations to Africa’s 32 ICC member states: 1) support the ICC at AU summits, 2) push for accountability for serious violators of international law in Darfur and Kenya, 3) voice objections on Kenya and Darfur to the Security Council rather than the ICC, 4) address concerns about plans to expand jurisdiction of the new African Court of Justice and Human Rights, 5) cooperate with ICC prosecution of crimes in Libya, 6) comply with obligations regarding people targeted by ICC warrants, and 7) take a more active role in selection of the next ICC prosecutor.

Currently the African Court of Justice and Human Rights is allowed to rule on general legal matters and human rights treaties. The AU has proposed widening its jurisdiction to criminal prosecution for genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Noting the complexity of these cases and the region’s lack of experience in handling them, the report advises caution. If the African Court moves ahead, says the report, it must adhere to international legal and procedural standards, have access to adequate resources to conduct investigations, and clarify its standing to make sure it doesn’t undermine ICC authority.

The recommendation regarding the Bashir warrant appears to be a response to the AU call for members not to cooperate with the arrest, while the plea for cooperation with the ICC on Libya aims to ensure that African concerns about military action don’t obstruct justice for crimes against civilians.

Photo: Human Rights Watch

Twitter Updates

Advertisements