Rwanda, land of a ‘thousand hills,’ conjures up a varied number of memories for many of us but the most vivid are images of the 1994 genocide. An atrocity, which left over half a million people dead, and forced the international community to make its promise of ‘Never Again.’ But when it mattered most, the same international community pulled out its peacekeeping forces, and to save face, set up the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) similar to the one set up for Yugoslavia, precedents which led to the formation of the International criminal Court (ICC.)
However, will this court serve justice where it really matters without political interference?
In his insightful offering, Thierry Cruvellier an investigative journalist and editor of International Justice Tribune, who observed the ICTR from 1997 to 2002, gives a firsthand and absorbing account of the daily legal drama at the tribunal as they unfolded. Set up in November 1994, the ICTR was charged with the task of bringing the perpetrators of the heinous crimes which gripped the world and continues to be a point of fascination to justice. Cruvellier quickly established that justice for those who were wronged was not going to be as straightforward as many would have liked.
From the trials of the alleged key players, like Jean-Paul Akayesu, Jean Kambada, Georges Rutaganda and Georges Ruggiu, he details the political dance and interference which would taint the tribunal and force many to question the legal and moral framework on which it was established. He exposes legal flaws and complexities of the same tribunal with its continuous double-dealing with some of the alleged criminals it was supposed to being to justice. Cruvellier also does an exposé of the administrative and legal failures that would almost see the likes of Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza get away for their role in the genocide. He goes on to raise questions about the one sided form of justice that was dished out, a term he refers to as ‘Victor’s justice.’ While the Hutu perpetrators were being prosecuted, no one from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was ever arrested nor was there an effort to find out about crimes which may or may not have been carried out by the other side. With the Hutus effectively defeated and removed from power, the RPF which brought the massacre to an end and was now in power, would go on to hold the international community to ransom and in a way use its failure to help the Tutsis as a guilt machine to assert pressure on the tribunal when it wanted to.
One thing is certain, the key testimonies captured by Cruvellier enlarge our insight into the skill with which the brutality was dished out to victims. It also shows how ordinary men lost every form of humanity and became skilled killing robots on a plantation with no master to control them. This is an enthralling read that will leave you angry, remorseful and force you to question the principles of justice on national and international levels. It would also make a riveting court room drama series for television with the exception of one crucial reality; Rwanda’s story and continuous quest for justice is real. It is real life with real people whose national pain and loss is forever ingrained in world history.
Court of Remorse: Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (Critical Human Rights), is a must read for anyone who is intrigued and has questions about the events of 1994, but has never fully understood what happened in those brutal 100 days or why the international community still cannot keep its promise of “Never Again.”
Court of Remorse: Inside The International Tribunals For Rwanda, is published by University of Wisconsin Press (US)
Belinda Otas (http://belindaotas.com) is a London-based journalist, writer and blogger. She is interested and passionate about Africa and loves theatre. In fact, she is a theatre fanatic, and reads a lot of novels and short stories by writers of African descent, but sprinkles it with her love of novels and works by authors from different parts of the world. Belinda is currently working on her first stage play.