Justice Hassan B. Jallow
Office of the Prosecutor
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Dear Mr. Prosecutor,
With plans for the closing of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) nearing completion, we write publicly to urge you to address crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front. To date the Tribunal has achieved considerable success in holding to account some of those most responsible for the genocide and in ensuring that victims of the genocide see some justice and can be justifiably proud of its legacy. However, failing to address the fact that in 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) killed thousands of civilians, in the process committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, will have a negative impact on that legacy. As a longtime supporter of the Tribunal, we believe that it is imperative to raise this issue with you again now.
As you know, the crimes alleged to have been committed by the RPF have been well documented by a UN Commission of Experts which concluded that the RPF had “perpetrated serious breaches of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.” These crimes were not of the same nature or scale as the genocide, but they are serious crimes that fall under the ICTR’s jurisdiction. We are sure that you and members of the Security Council will agree that the victims of these crimes also deserve justice. The fact that these crimes are well-known throughout Rwanda and the world would make a failure to address them particularly glaring.
Allowing these crimes to be prosecuted in Rwanda is not an acceptable alternative. The ICTR’s trial chambers have now ruled three times in decisions confirmed on appeal that obstacles exist to having fair trials for genocide cases in Rwanda. In their decisions, the judges expressed concerns about the ability to secure witnesses and to guarantee their safety. These concerns are even more profound in cases against the RPF than for cases of genocide.
In the nearly fifteen years since the crimes were committed, the Rwandan government prosecuted no soldiers for violations of international humanitarian law until the recent case referred by you to Rwandan national courts. This one trial for violations of international humanitarian law resulted in two acquittals and two persons sentenced to eight years of prison for having killed fifteen civilians, including one child who was himself a Tutsi survivor of genocide. The conduct of that trial, like the penalties imposed, fail to demonstrate the necessary capacity and political will for Rwanda to deliver complete justice for victims of RPF crimes, who number in the thousands.
There were practical reasons why bringing cases against the RPF earlier was not possible, including the readiness of the government of Rwanda to impede prosecutions for the genocide as a way to ensure ICTR inaction on RPF cases. But as the tribunal plans for its closure, we believe that it is essential for you to notify the Security Council that the ICTR will need time for RPF trials. A failure to do so would taint the perception of the Tribunal’s impartiality in carrying out its mandate and thereby undermine its legitimacy in the eyes of future generations.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
Cc: Patricia O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General, The Legal Counsel, Office of Legal Affairs