The Government of Rwanda Patriotic Front persists and intensifies the pressure to be entrusted with the archives of the ICTR. This request is far from being trivial. It is worth recalling the great importance of the Archives of the ICTR, particularly with regard to bringing about justice in general, and in particular the key aim of the creation ICTR.
The judicial process of the ICTR was established by the resolution of the Security Council of the United Nations nº 955 of 8 November 1994. In view of the objective of the resolution, the mission assigned to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is twofold:
- Punish international crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994;
- Help the people of Rwanda to reconcile.
It must be emphasized that beyond the aim of prosecution and punishment of crimes committed in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region of Africa, the ICTR is first and foremost an international framework to carry out thorough investigation into the Rwandan tragedy and shed light on the whole truth about what happened, a prerequisite sine qua none for genuine reconciliation between sons and daughters of Rwanda. In such a vital process for the nation, it is essential that light be shed on the role of each actor in the tragedy that befell Rwanda right from 1990 to the genocide of one part of the country’s population. In any case, Rwanda can only exorcise her demons if a criminal or a criminal group, which played a central role in the suicidal process of the country, keeps the reins of power of the country.
However, the delicate position of judge and jury that the RPF has occupied since the beginning of the Rwandan crisis rules it out from the position of being the custodian of the archives of ICTR, an institution that scrutinized the tragic history of Rwanda. Indeed, in order to ensure the total impunity and for obvious psychological reasons, the RPF government would be against the idea of shedding light on the tragic history of Rwanda. In case this is done the ICTR will have permanently jeopardized all hope for truth and justice so vital for the traumatized Rwandans. The neutrality of the RPF cannot be guaranteed, being part of the tragedy that befell Rwanda from the beginning to to the end.
Thus, beyond these general considerations, there are two compelling reasons why the ICTR archives should not be entrusted to the Rwandan government dominated by the Rwandan Patriotic Front:
1. Witness protection
We know that a witness may be protected at his/her request, the request of the Prosecution, the defence, the victims and witness support unit or of judges. Thus, there were several types of protected witnesses that came before different chambers of the ICTR: witnesses under pseudo names and witnesses who allowed to disclose totally or partially their identity. In all cases, the names of protected witnesses and any information that could identify them, was removed from the Tribunal’s public documents to safeguard the identity of protected witnesses. All these measures are designed to ensure that the identity of the witness, which is always disclosed to the accused and his counsel, is not disclosed to the public. Given the above, it is the UN that must keep the archives of the ICTR, as these archives contain the identification of thousands of protected witnesses. They could suffer serious consequences if their identity were revealed to the RPF. These privileged observers of the Rwandan tragedy, which for a security question, have obtained guarantees that their identity will not be disclosed to the public, are key actors in the process of justice for Rwanda and as such cannot be revealed to the RPF which has never been neutral in the judicial management of the Rwandan tragedy.
2. Lack of neutrality of the Rwandan government
When the administration of evidence in the different chambers of the ICTR and throughout the debates, a mass of prosecution witness statements, factual evidence, testimonies on the context of the tragedy and expert testimony have clearly established the responsibility of the RPF rebellion in the bloody events that shook Rwanda. Defense expert witnesses, among others, informed the different chambers of the ICTR on political and strategic choices that turned the RPF war of national liberation into a bloodbath. That is why the government dominated by the RPF did everything to suppress the truth about the course of the war and the stages that led it to military and political victory.
That said, the government dominated by the RPF, if it received the archives, could not help but tamper with different files in order to remove all evidence relating to its responsibility in the Rwandan tragedy. Moreover, if not happy with the acquittal of the official of Habyarimana regime, the government could reopen closed cases for prosecution. We remember that in several cases, the Rwandan government organized massive demonstrations against the acquittals of some people and at the same time launched new accusations against people freshly acquitted by the ICTR.
For all these reasons, FDU-Inkingi strongly recommends that the request of the Rwandan government for the management of the ICTR archives be dismissed.
Done in London on January 25, 2016.
Commissioner for External Relations and FDU-Inkingi Spokesperson