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The Research Project

Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) each documented human rights abuses in Rwanda before, during and since the genocide. The two organizations joined with the International Center for Human Rights and Democratic Development and the Interafrican Union of Human and Peoples’ Rights to sponsor an international commission that reported in 1993 on massacres of Tutsi and other human rights violations by the Rwandan government and on abuses by the RPF. In addition, the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch documented the arms trade and military preparations of both the Rwandan government and the RPF in 1993 and later arms deliveries to former Rwandan army soldiers and militia in camps in Zaire.

When the April 1994 slaughter was launched, Human Rights Watch and FIDH fought together with other human rights and humanitarian organizations to oblige policymakers, the press and the public to recognize the genocidal nature of the killings and to honor moral and legal obligations to intervene to halt the genocide.

Since 1994 staff and lawyers associated with both organizations have initiated and helped Rwandans initiate legal actions in the U.S. and in Belgium against persons accused of genocide. They have served as expert witnesses and supplied documentary evidence to prosecutors in legal proceedings related to the genocide in the U.S., Canada, Belgium and Switzerland and at the International Tribunal. They have provided testimony and documentation also to the Belgian Senate, the French National Assembly and the U.S. Congress in their inquiries into the genocide.

In early 1995, the two organizations began documenting the genocide, attempting to analyze the killing campaign from the level of the local security committee to the that of the U.N. Security Council. Researchers carried out hundreds of interviews and located, organized, and translated administrative records from communes and prefectures. They also amassed extensive materials from judicial cases and from various diplomatic sources.

The study presents both an overview of the genocide throughout the country and a closer examination of its course in southern Rwanda, where people opposed the killing campaign longer than elsewhere in the country and where the role of the authorities in directing the genocide is particularly clear.

The researchers comprised an international team of historians, political scientists, and lawyers with extensive experience in the region. All acknowledge with deep respect and appreciation the contributions of hundreds of Rwandans to this work, most of whom are not named for their own protection.

Alison Des Forges directed the research for this project, assisted by Eric Gillet. Des Forges wrote this study with the collaboration of Gillet for the chapter onjustice and of Timothy Longman and Michele Wagner for the chapters on Nyakizu. In addition to these persons, the research team included Lynn Welchman, Kirsti Lattu, Trish Hiddleston, Catherine Choquet, and Christine Deslaurier. Deslaurier and Anne Boley prepared the maps. Janet Fleischman supplied critical advice, logistical assistance and encouragement and Jemera Rone helped establish the field project in Butare. Georgette Uwase, Alphonse Nkunzimana, Medard Ndawumungu, Daniel Kanyandekwe, and Aimable Twagirimana provided skilled assistance with translation from Kinyarwanda into French and English.

Michael McClintock and Peter Takirambudde edited the English version of the report and Eric Gillet, Catherine Choquet, Valerie Pons-Mello and Emmanuelle Robineau-Duverger edited the French version. Mariam Abou-Zahab translated the report from English to French. Jean-Pierre Getti provided legal advice on the French version. Juliet Wilson, Roger Des Forges, and Sybil Liebhafsky assisted with the production of the English version of the report. Kim Mazyk, Marcus Watson and Maria-Theresia Schütte helped with classifying documents. Gilles Peress graciously contributed his photograph for the cover.

The research team gratefully acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of officials from the Rwandan Ministry of Justice and from the prefectural and communal administrations in Butare, Gikongoro, Gitarama and Kibuye.

The team thanks Alter-Ciné, Jean-Pierre Chrétien, Alain Destexhte, André Guichaoua, Lindsey Hilsum, Chris McGreal, Catharine Newbury, David Newbury, Gasana Ndoba, Gérard Prunier, Filip Reyntjens, William Seltzer, Astri Suhrke, and Claudine Vidal for assistance with documentation and in interpreting evidence.

The research team gratefully acknowledges the funding which made this study possible. Novib, Oxfam, and the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation supported the work of Human Rights Watch in this project and FIDH was funded by the Comité Catholique Contre la Faim et pour le développement; Développement et paix; Oxfam; Trocaire; Swiss Cooperation and Danida.

The public interest demands that crimes as grave as those committed in Rwanda be known and that those responsible for them be identified. We understand the limitations of even the most careful investigative techniques and recognize that despite our best efforts this work may contain errors. We stress that this work does not and is not meant to establish “judicial truth” as to the guilt or innocence of any person, which is the responsibility of legally established national and international tribunals. Indeed, we publish the results of our research in part to encourage public support for the efforts of judicial authorities responsible for finding and judging those guilty of genocide.

All who have invested their energy and resources in this study hope that it will contribute to a deeper analysis of events and to a more honest and complete delineation of responsibility both inside and outside Rwanda.

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