Human Rights Page

The massacres in Rwanda were a changing point in my life. Perhaps a million slaughtered, played out on tv screens. I watched people pleading for their lives, then being hacked to death for a label, a slight difference in culture. I came to realise that it was not enough to avoid contributing to others suffering, though that is an important step in itself.

As Rwanda and so many other terrible incidents prove, there is a recurrent disease in the heart of humanity. We need healing. Unless individuals together call for a global community, one capable of responding to such situations, we will not stop tragedies of this scale. To be an isolationist, to look away, to hide inconvenient facts from your conscious thought, is one more person who allows illegitamate governments to exist that do nothing about human rights abuses in other countries.

Rwanda proved to me, as the holocaust and so many other incidents have proved to people of other times, that there is no safe middle ground in leading an ethical life. To not act, is to let injustice be.

Panel Issues Rwanda Genocide Report

Associated Press Writer


In the broadest investigation of Rwanda's 1994 genocide, an international panel on Friday blamed the U.N. Security Council, the United States, France and the Catholic Church for allowing more than 500,000 people to be slaughtered.

The 90-day genocide was orchestrated by a small group of Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority. More than half a million Tutsis and thousands of moderate Hutus were killed in a slaughter that ended when Tutsi-led rebels seized control.

`A small number of major actors could directly have prevented, halted, or reduced the slaughter,' said the seven-member panel, established in 1998 by the Organization of African Unity.

Calling the conclusions ``very shocking,'' former Canadian Ambassador and panel member Stephen Lewis told a news conference releasing the report that the French government knew exactly what was happening and could have prevented the genocide.

``We repudiate the position of the government of France _ the position that asserts that they had no responsibility,'' he said. ``There is almost no redemptive feature to the conduct of the government of France.''

Lewis called the U.S. role in blocking the U.N. Security Council from sending an effective military force to halt the genocide ``an almost incomprehensible scar of shame on American foreign policy.'' ``I don't know how Madeleine Albright lives with it,'' he said.

At the time, the U.S. secretary of state was the American ambassador to the United Nations. Rwanda's U.N. Ambassador Joseph Mutaboba said the report succeeded in ``pointing a finger to where it had to be pointed in the first place _ to adequately describe what happened, how it happened, and why it happened.''

The 318-page report traces the roots of the genocide back to Rwanda's colonial rulers from Germany, and then Belgium, who along with Roman Catholic missionaries fostered the belief that the country's minority Tutsis were superior to its Hutu majority.

It then links the genocide to current African conflicts.

The Security Council bears the greatest responsibility in the genocide because it could have dispatched an international military force, the report said.

It said the United States deserves the greatest blame of the 15 council members because it made sure that no serious military mission was sent to stop the killings ``even after it was known beyond question that one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies was unfolding,'' the panel said.

The United Nations had a 2,500-strong peacekeeping mission in the country when the genocide began, but governments pulled out all but a few hundred troops after 10 Belgian peacekeepers were killed.

An independent report on the U.N. role in the genocide, commissioned by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, concluded in December that the organization and its members lacked the political will and resources to prevent or stop the genocide.

But Friday's report was much more direct.

``Weeks into the genocide, the Security Council, led by the U.S., actually voted to reduce the inadequate military mission that had earlier been authorized for Rwanda,'' the report said.

``Later, once a new mission was finally authorized, American stalling tactics ensured that not one single additional soldier or piece of equipment reached Rwanda before the genocide had ended.''

After losing 18 soldiers in Somalia in October 1993, the United States was largely opposed to the Security Council authorizing any new serious peacekeeping missions, with or without American participation, it said.

The French government is also singled out for failing to use its ``unrivaled influence'' with Rwanda's government and military to denounce ethnic hatred.

French troops allowed many Rwandan leaders who played a part in the genocide to escape across the border into Zaire, the report said. Now many of those leaders are helping fuel the civil war in Congo.

Like the French government, the Catholic and Anglican hierarchies were blamed for failing to use ``their unique moral position among the overwhelmingly Christian population to denounce ethnic hatred and human rights abuses,'' it said.

Belgium was cited in the report for insisting that its soldiers leave Rwanda when the genocide started, knowing ``they could save countless lives if they were allowed to remain.''

Since the genocide, the report noted, President Clinton, Annan, the prime minister of Belgium and the Anglican church have all apologized for failing to stop the killings. But France and the Catholic Church have not yet offered any apology, it said.

The panel recommended Annan appoint a commission to determine reparations owed by the international community to Rwanda.

The seven panel members were Former Botswana President Ketumile Masire, former Mali President Toumani Toure, former Liberian minister and presidential candidate Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former Indian Supreme Court Chief Justice P.N. Bhagwati, Algerian Senator Hocine Djoudi who was a U.N. ambassador, and Lisbet Palme, head of the Swedish Committee for UNICEF and widow of assassinated prime minister Olof Palme.

Cameron Green
Last Updated - Fri, 30 Jan 2015 07:04:32 -0600