(New York) - Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) applaud the July 18 arrest by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of seven persons charged with having played major roles in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The arrests represent an important step in the campaign to bring to justice those most responsible for the slaughter of more than half a million Rwandan Tutsi. Together with the earlier arrest of Col. Theoneste Bagosora, these detentions mark the first time that international justice has succeeded in indicting and arresting such high-level leaders for massive crimes against humanity.
The arrests were made in Nairobi, where many of those accused of genocide had long found shelter. Although Kenyan authorities had previously assisted in one arrest for the International Tribunal, they had never before helped arrest persons accused of playing such a leading role in the genocide. The two international human rights organizations hailed this kind of cooperation as essential for ending impunity for massive human rights abuses in Africa. Both Zambia and Cameroon have also arrested persons sought by the International Tribunal.
Those arrested in Kenya included the prime minister, Jean Kambanda, who directed the government during the genocide and who allegedly helped rally tens of thousands of members of his MDR (Democratic Republican Movement) party to support the killing, and Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, then Minister of Family and Womenµs Affairs, who reportedly ordered killings in her home prefecture of Butare. Nyiramasuhukoµs son, Anselme Shalom Ntahobali, is accused of having led the Interahamwe militia in slaughtering Tutsi in Butare. The Tribunal has arrested two important military figures, Colonel Gratien Kabiligi and Major Aloys Ntabakuze, thus recognizing that soldiers under their command apparently massacred Tutsi and directed Hutu civilians in carrying out the slaughter. The Tribunal has also detained the former governor of Butare, Sylvain Nsabimana, and Hassan Ngeze, who ran the newspaper Kangura-source of some of the most virulent propaganda against Tutsi. Five of those arrested are provisionally detained; Nyiramasuhuko and her son have been indicted.
Human Rights Watch and FIDH urge that the international community provide the human resources necessary for rapid completion of investigations and prosecutions in these cases. They note that the lack of investigators and experienced prosecutors has slowed the work of the Tribunal in the past and call upon the Secretary-General Kofi Annan to make the recruitment of capable persons for these posts a priority. National governments are also urged to assist in this effort.