UN's Rwanda Tribunal
Tainted by Expediency
by Our Special Correspondent
The proceedings at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, raise serious doubts whether it will serve the purpose of contributing "to the process of national reconciliation and to the restoration and maintenance of peace" in Rwanda, as stated in United Nations Resolution 955 which set up the tribunal in November 1994.
Political observers in Arusha say the overall direction of the proceedings is completely one-sided, and that important international aspects of the conflict which led to the catastrophe are excluded from the deliberations of the courts. Some call this victors' justice, others even say, this is the legal lynching of the former Hutu elite of Rwanda. Considering the fact that the basis for the UN Resolution 955 was a request by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) government, the least one can say is, that this tribunal is tainted by political expediency in favor of the victorious RPF and the geopolitical intentions of the U.S. and British governments, which backed the RPF in their march to power from 1990 to 1994.
There are now 59 defendants of whom 8 have been sentenced to between 12 years and life imprisonment, 22 are on trial, and 28 are awaiting trial in Arusha. One person, Ignace Bagilishema, former mayor of Mabanza in Rwanda's Kibuye prefecture, was acquitted and set free. All of the accused were either members of the military, or national and local governments during the time of the late President Juvenal Habyarimana, or they were close to the former ruling party of Rwanda, the MRND. So far, the tribunal has not indicted anyone from the other side of the conflict, the mainly Tutsi RPF, even though it is well known that they, before and after they took power in July 1994, also committed horrendous crimes against the civilian population.
Expert Witnesses Excluded
Defense lawyers for André Ntagerura, Rwanda's former Minister of Transport, attempted to call two expert witnesses, in the first week of July, to give testimony on the international aspects of the conflict. They were Uwe Friesecke of EIR's Africa Desk (see Friesicke testimony), and Wayne Madsen, a retired U.S. Navy officer and investigative journalist (see Madsen testimony). Ntagerura is one of the defendants in the so-called "Cyangugu Trial." The others are Samuel Imanishimwe, a former commander of the Cyangugu military barracks, and Emmanuel Bagimbiki, a former Governor of Cyangugu Province. All three pleaded not guilty to charges of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The defense lawyers wanted Friesecke to testify about the international character of the conflict that led to the Rwandan events of 1994, and identify the international actors in this crisis. Madsen was supposed to testify on who shot down the Presidential plane on April 6, 1994 during its approach to Rwanda's Kigali airport, killing Presidents Habyarimana of Rwanda and the visiting Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi. After reviewing both written testimonies and hearing oral arguments from the prosecution and the defense, the judges rejected the proposed testimonies as "irrelevant and inadmissible."
The judges recognized that Friesecke's testimony directly challenged the indictment of Ntagerura, insofar as it says that during the events referred to in the indictment, a state of conflict, which was not national in origin, existed in Rwanda. The testimony presents ample proof that the conflict was actually international in character, because without an invasion of Rwanda from Uganda, and constant Anglo-American intelligence support for the RPF invading forces, up to their victory, there would not have been a war in Rwanda in 1994. Nevertheless, the judges argued that it is "common knowledge" that the conflict in Rwanda was not international, but internal in character.
By taking such judicial notice, the judges made a far-reaching decision which will have an impact on all the other cases before the tribunal. The basis for the tribunal's jurisdiction is a definition of the events of 1994 as a "non-international armed conflict"; this is repeated in almost all the indictments. If that "fact" could be challenged successfully by any defense team in court, the tribunal could lose its jurisdiction, with significant political consequences. But for the time being, the rejection of Friesicke's testimony has excluded that possibility.
Sources close to the tribunal report that higher-level officials of the United Nations and the leading permanent member of the UN Security Council, the United States, fear that the international aspect of the Rwanda crisis of 1994 can not be excluded from the proceedings forever, as most other defense teams also try to find ways of introducing this into court. Knowing the real history of Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, and Congo since 1990, one could argue as well that it is by now "common knowledge" that the events in 1994 were an armed conflict of international character. If that were acknowledged by the court, some very uncomfortable questions about the role of the government of Uganda and its President Yoweri Museveni, and the role of the United States and Great Britain, would be asked.
Prosecutors From Interested Countries
The argument that this would shift the responsibility for the massacres away from the local actors, to outside governments and international institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF), misses the point.
Through the United Nations, represented by the tribunal prosecution the international community brings a group of political leaders and government representatives of the former Rwandan government to trial for genocide and crimes against humanity. The EIR testimony does not maintain that there were no crimes committed. Clearly, local actors, including representatives of the Hutu political and military establishment at the time, committed crimes; but this is not the whole truth. The same international community which is bringing people to trial, was involved, through some leading governments, as active partners on one side of the 1990-94 conflict, creating the circumstances in which these crimes occurred.
This is comparable to a case, in which a U.S. court recognizes that the government, through counter-intelligence operations, was involved in setting up conditions under which the crimes, of which a defendant is accused, were committed. Such a court may declare a mistrial or demand that the government disclose the full truth of its involvement to the court. In the Arusha tribunal, the prosecutors come from countries which had an interest in defeating the Rwandan government at the time. If this problem is not addressed, the ICTR and the UN will have another very serious problem regarding their own credibility.
According to the EIR testimony, Anglo-American interests started the war against Rwanda in 1990; this was part of a continuing geopolitical strategy for change of power structures in Central and East Africa. The evidence known so far is probably just a fraction of the facts which show how deeply the U.S. and British governments were involved on the side of the RPF and the Ugandan government, to topple the Habyarimana government.
The critical period, about which relatively little is known, is between the beginning of 1991, when the new RPF offensive started in Rwanda's north, and the RPF seizure of power in the capital, Kigali, in 1994. Some say that Anglo-American mercenaries fought on the side of the RPF. Others report that U.S. diplomats made open threats to members of the Rwandan interim government of April 1994 to get them to capitulate.
Wayne Madsen, in his written testimony, advanced the hypothesis about who shot down the Rwandan Presidential plane on the evening of April 6, 1994, killing the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, and sparking off the last phase of mass killings in Rwanda. Madsen cited, in particular, French sources for the thesis that the plane was shot down by the RPF, with the help of the Uganda government and backed up by Anglo-American intelligence forces. He points to some RPF defectors confirming this hypothesis. Madsen also notes a confidential UN report on the plane attack, which—according to one UN investigator, Australian lawyer Michael Hourigan—uncovered evidence of the RPF's involvement.
According to Madsen and to confidential sources, this report was delivered to the head of the UN War Crimes Tribunal, Judge Louise Arbour of Canada, but was never made public, and the investigation was terminated when details of the RPF's involvement in the killing of the two Presidents and their advisers emerged. The Falcon jet's "black box" was secretly transported to UN headquarters in New York, and information from it is being withheld by the UN under U.S. pressure.
In light of the evidence known now, the theory that "radical Hutus" shot down Habyarimana's plane is no longer credible.
Similarly, there never was an independent investigation of the assassination of Burundi's first elected President Melchior Ndadaye, a Hutu, in October 1993, which contributed significantly to the rising tensions inside Rwanda before 1994.
The fact that these two investigations into the killing of three Presidents were not undertaken, clearly points to a massive cover-up of the truth behind the tragic events in the region, that culminated in the carnage in Rwanda in 1994.
UN's Credibility at Stake, Again
The failure of the United Nations to act in April 1994, to intervene in Rwanda and stop the killing, has significantly undermined its credibility. Political considerations among some of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council at the time, blocked effective action. Now, the proceedings in Arusha pose the same question of credibility for the UN, and whether there is an internationally recognized standard of law to judge crimes against humanity.
The prosecution at the ICTR insists that the only issues before the court, are the individual local criminal acts of one group of people, the Hutus, who allegedly committed genocide against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus. If this approach continues to guide the courts of the ICTR, the resulting sentences will neither be just, nor will they contribute to reconciliation between Hutu and Tutsi. Why should only one side pay the price for the Rwandan disaster?
But the UN faces a more principled question. In October 1990, the RPF invasion of Rwanda from Uganda started a series of wars and conflicts in the Great Lakes region and the Congo (formerly Zaire), which since then has cost the lives of 5-8 million people, and the killing in the region is still going on. It is the worst destruction of human life since World War II. The reason for this genocidal process was a drive by the Anglo-American powers to change the face of Africa according to their geopolitical desires.
Only as a result of this condition of war, were the criminal acts committed in Rwanda. Will the UN, through the ICTR, lend credence to the thesis that these criminal acts in Rwanda in 1994 were just the result of an ethnic conflict, of Hutu planning to exterminate the Tutsi? In this way, the UN would again act as nothing more than the instrument for the power politics of the Anglo-American members of the UN Security Council.
Right now the U.S. government is exerting pressure on the UN to speed up the ICTR and bring it to an end. Funding considerations are the pretext, but it is an open secret that the United States fears that the longer the ICTR goes on, the greater the possibility that its own involvement in the Rwanda crisis becomes a subject of the court proceedings.
If the ICTR finds 50 or more prominent representatives of Rwanda's old Hutu establishment guilty of genocide, or conspiracy to commit genocide, against the Tutsi and moderate Hutu, then this will be the "common knowledge" about the crisis of 1990 to 1994, and the book of history will be closed. It would be the final justification for the usurpation of power at that time, by the RPF and Paul Kagame in Rwanda, and for the continuing role of Uganda's Museveni as the most obedient servant to British and American interests in the region. It would also absolve the Western powers from any blame for the conflict.
Justice for the people of Rwanda can only be found if the full truth of the events between 1990 and 1994 comes to light. Besides bringing the perpetrators of crimes from both sides of the conflict before a court, this means, most importantly, to accuse those in positions of power in Washington, London, and Kampala who designed and executed the war policy of the 1990s for East and Central Africa, with its terrible results ongoing to this day. Only then could the full truth be revealed. Right now, the UN and the ICTR are very far from this task, and the decision in the first week of July, to exclude the expert testimony of Friesicke and Madsen, has even increased the distance.