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International Justice

At the end of 1999, a United Nations investigative commission reported how and why the United Nations and its member states failed to halt the 1994 genocide. Six months later, a commission of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) made the same critical conclusions and particularly condemned the United States for impeding action by the U.N. and France for supporting the genocidal government. The OAU report also examined alleged RPF crimes against humanity committed in 1994. President Kagame initially welcomed the OAU publication as "a good report," but two months later, Rwandan authorities attacked it as "biased."

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda completed trials of a factory director and a leader of the Interahamwe militia and found them guilty of genocide. The court found a third person guilty after he confessed to his role in inciting to genocide over the radio. Still plagued by lengthy proceedings, the appeals and trial chambers adopted reforms meant to speed trials. An internal audit found that all branches of the tribunal needed to become more efficient, both in terms of time and money.

In November 1999, the appeals chamber ordered the release of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza on the grounds of procedural errors by the prosecution. The Rwandan government immediately suspended cooperation with the court and for a brief period refused a visa to the chief prosecutor. In early 2000, the appeals chamber reheard the case. The prosecutor argued for reversal on legal grounds but also stated that prosecutions for genocide could not continue without cooperation from the Rwandan government. The appeals chamber reversed its decision, allowing Barayagwiza to be tried. In late 1999, the tribunal decided to receive an official and permanent representative of the Rwandan government, and in 2000, judges of the trial chamber visited Rwanda where they were received by President Kagame. These developments, together with the absence of any prosecutions of RPF members for alleged crimes, raised questions about the impartiality of the tribunal.

Such doubts were fueled by publication of a confidential U.N. memorandum suggesting that the previous prosecutor had halted an investigation into RPF involvement in downing the airplane of President Juvenal Habyarimana, the catalytic event which set off the genocide.

Another press account revealed, however, that the tribunal was investigating possible RPF crimes. In August, a Belgian investigating magistrate opened a similar inquiry following a complaint filed by several Rwandans.

In judicial proceedings elsewhere related to the genocide, a Swiss appeals court reduced to fourteen years the life sentence of a Rwandan burgomaster condemned in 1999 for violations of the Geneva conventions. French judges investigated the downing of Habyarimana's airplane and a case of genocide against a Rwandan priest. In Canada, an appeals court deliberated on the motion of Leon Mugesera to avoid expulsion from the country for having incited to genocide in Rwanda in 1992. In Belgium, a trial began for two religious sisters and two others accused of genocide.

United Nations

The U.N. Security Council acknowledged human rights abuses committed by all sides in the war in the DRC. It asked both Rwanda and Uganda to make reparations for the loss of life and property damage inflicted on civilians when they fought each other in the Congolese city of Kisangani. In another resolution, the council deplored the deterioration of human rights in the eastern DRC, including attacks on civilians in which Rwandan troops presumably were involved.

The U.N. Human Rights Commission remarkably enough showed less concern than the Security Council for such combat-related abuses. Both the commission and the special representative of the high commissioner for human rights, Michel Moussalli, commended the Rwandan government for its progress, ignoring its abuses in the DRC and minimizing those inside Rwanda.

European Union

The European Union (E.U.) and its member states said little about Rwandan human rights abuses and contributed generously to government funds. Unlike 1999 when the E.U. expressed concern about abuses related to villagization, in September 2000 it adopted a common position that criticized nothing and encouraged "the ongoing processes...of protecting and promoting human rights." In March, the E.U. resumed development aid which had been interrupted in 1994.

The United Kingdom continued its ten-year program of assistance, with grants of some U.S. $70 million, with Cooperation Secretary Clare Short enthusiastically supporting the Rwandan government and initially denouncing critical human rights reports as "political propaganda." The Dutch, initially hesitant to list Rwanda among its privileged aid recipients, did so in 2000 in consideration of economic progress and promised implementation of the Lusaka Accords. Belgium proffered an official apology for its conduct at the time of the genocide and promisedincreased assistance, particularly in the area of health. Germany gave some U.S. $6 million for education and legal assistance. Even France, seen as hostile since 1994, sent its minister of cooperation to Rwanda.

While governments at home generally kept silent on human rights issues, diplomats from the Belgian, German, Swiss, and Dutch embassies intervened locally during the year to assist persons whose rights had been abused.

United States

Generally viewed as strongly supportive of the Rwandan government, the U.S. this year helped it acquire the only advanced radar in central Africa and cut the Rwandan debt to the U.S. by 67 percent. It also signed three grants totaling U.S. $15.1 million for assistance in establishing the rule of law, transparency in governance, and health and social services.

Like their European colleagues, U.S. embassy staff followed individual cases of human rights abuse and intervened several times.

Ambassador for War Crimes David Scheffer worked to end impunity in central Africa, a goal supported at least nominally by Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. As the year ended, administration officials were considering possible ways to bring violators of international humanitarian law to justice.

The U.S. supported the international tribunal for Rwanda, although in May 2000 it pointed out the need for better use of funds. Senator Russ Feingold sought to encourage the arrest of suspected perpetrators of genocide by asking the U.S. Senate to establish a rewards program similar to that set up for the international tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia.

Relevant Human Rights Watch Reports:

The Search for Security and Human Rights Abuses, 4/00

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

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