International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: The dirty politics of genocide justice

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By Dr. Wolfgang H. Thome

For those who followed the trials in Arusha at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, some mindboggling decisions on appeal may come back to the forefront of their memories, when news confirmed overnight broke that the President of the Appeals Chamber, one Theodor Meron, found himself accused of bias and for having pressured fellow judges into acquitting key genocide suspects in cases before him. Some, including at least one who had actually confessed his crimes, the notorious Jean Kambanda, found themselves released beyond their wildest hopes while in other cases Meron was responsible to substantially cut sentences in favor of the genocidaires.

It was a fellow Danish judge who last week exposed the charade Meron’s chambers had become, where justice was not only NOT served, but the concept of justice massively perverted and besmirched.

Meron stands accused of “persistent and intense” activities, aimed to pervert the cause of justice and denying the million victims to rest in peace.

While common decency demands that Meron, too, is treated as “innocent until proven guilty,” a principle he himself clearly turned on its head, probably in his twisted mind reading “guilty only if I can avoid it,” there can be no doubt that the unfolding investigation – should indeed firm evidence come to light that his sentence reductions and overturned convictions were based on bias and not on fact – must be conducted in an environment free of his presence. No one knows what steps the UN will now take, but Meron must immediately step aside to make way for a full and complete investigation into all those cases he handled, and by the look of it influenced.

What is also clear is that he himself, if enough evidence is unearthed, must be charged in a court of law, perhaps in a Rwandan Court of Law, and that all those cases must be reinstated for a fresh appeal hearing without fail.

A million victims demand and deserve justice, and it can only be speculated what motives Meron brought with him and what twisted sense of justice unfolded in his head, to have acted like the Danish judge described it.

The UN Security Council, which confirmed Meron in his position, must now act swiftly and comprehensively to prevent more damage to the UN’s already dubious reputation over the past conduct of their troops in Eastern Congo, their constant biased “draft reports” on Eastern Congo affairs blaming Rwanda for all and sundry, and for this latest scandal falling under their jurisdiction.
It is not clear at this time, if Rwanda will demand that the suspicious cases be restored and heard again, either in Arusha or else in Kigali, but it is expected that when President Kagame is back from his state visit to Israel, that the cabinet will discuss this case, which has rattled Rwandan society like few issues over the past few years.

As to Meron, perhaps he should come to Rwanda and visit the national Genocide Memorial in Kigali, or as I have done over the years, visit some of the dozen more sites where the most gruesome of mass murders were committed at times, like at the Nyamata Church, with over 10,000 who had sought refuge inside, at a go.

Perhaps then he might build up some justified bias, bias FOR the victims and AGAINST the perpetrators, initiators and inciters of those days, after seeing what really happened and not what his obviously clouded mind made it out to be. NEVER AGAIN – this time it must be NEVER AGAIN, but justice has to be served first for the engineers of the 1994 genocide and for those who whipped up hatred and frenzy across the country back then. Performing this journey NOW would be good, as the commemorative period of the 19th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide is still ongoing, during which Rwanda observes a 100-day period of reflection and memorials, mainly to remind individuals like Meron of the reality and truth of what happened 19 years ago.

A country, which has through the Gacaca court system, managed to clear a caseload that a conventional justice administration might have taken 200 years to cope with, a country where perpetrators and survivors live side by side in reconciliation villages, a country which has forgiven those who confessed but are not forgotten, a country that simply deserves better than what Meron gave, and justice, if it is to serve as a deterrent, must be seen to be done and felt. All I can feel after I heard of this sordid saga is cold anger, and I add my own voice, as I am in Rwanda right now for the annual Festival of the Gorillas, aka Kwita Izina, to those of my Rwandan brothers and sisters who seek justice for the millions lost in 1994.

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mily�=mr�O� P�c f”; mso-ascii-theme-font:major-latin;mso-hansi-theme-font:major-latin’>This, in fact, is the sole example he should have quoted. Except for the Batutsi in Rwanda, no other people saw anybody carry out genocide against them in the past century but the Jews. If Acemah feels free to dispense another of his free pieces of advice to the Jews and sees light of the next day, I swear I’ll raise my hat to him!

Hats apart, though, as we have observed in his write-ups, his fervent intention is not to defend President Kikwete or to do a comparative study of who engaged who in talks. His sole intention is to express the strong hatred that he harbours for today’s Rwanda and to clear the image of his bemoaned close and intimate buddies of the time.

But the way I see things, if he is to mourn the Rwanda of yesteryears, it’s going to be for the rest of his days on this earth. For, unfortunately for him, the Rwanda of his time is gone for good. Today, Rwandans have seen the light and have embraced an inclusive Rwanda that none will have the capacity to tear up ever again.

Among the defining principles of Rwanda today is that of being fiercely defensive of the dignity of all her people. Together these people will fight anyone, high or lowly in their society, neighbour or distant foreigner, that tries to twist a sword in the wound of our genocide survivors.

The infantile excitement he displayed when The Daily Monitor accepted to publish his opinions showed a man who was eager to write pieces that would guarantee his family an income. He should see the desperate situation a certain American called Peter Erlinder is in, after daring the wrath of the gods of Rwanda. Acemah and your ilk, high or low, close or distant, stand warned!

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