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Rwanda: Deliver Justice for Victims of Both Sides

(New York) - The U.N. Security Council must stand behind its intention of delivering justice to victims of both sides in the conflict that devastated Rwanda in 1994, Human Rights Watch said today.

In a letter to current Security Council President John Negroponte, Human Rights Watch stressed the importance of bringing to justice not only those behind the genocide but also members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in 1994.  
 
"The Rwandan Patriotic Army murdered thousands in 1994, committing war crimes and crimes against humanity," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "The president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, himself has admitted that some of his soldiers committed abuses. But now the Rwandan government opposes bringing the accused before international justice."  
 
In 1994, the Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute genocide and other crimes against humanity committed in Rwanda. Until now, the tribunal has tried only those accused of genocide. But the chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, recently announced that she would seek indictments against some members of the RPA for violating international humanitarian law. Her effort to pursue the worst abuses by both sides to the conflict parallels her work in the former Yugoslavia.  
 
Since then, the Rwandan government has hindered the travel of witnesses, causing the suspension of three genocide trials. It has also failed to provide documents requested by the prosecutor. The prosecutor reported these obstructions to the Security Council in late July.  
 
The Rwandan government says the tribunal should try only genocide cases and leave any possible prosecution of RPA members to Rwandan courts. But victims of RPA crimes in 1994 have little chance for justice within the country. Rwandan military courts have tried very few RPA soldiers for 1994 crimes and those convicted have received light sentences. Rwandan authorities also have banned the newly created gacaca or people's courts from trying crimes by RPA soldiers.  
 
In response to the prosecutor's charges, the Rwandan government repeated its own frequently voiced criticisms of the tribunal's performance.  
 
"Rwandan authorities deplore the failures of the tribunal, and there have been some," said Roth. "But in this case the Rwandan government has shown itself to be more worried about the tribunal's potential for success-in prosecuting the RPA."  

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