By Robert Kayinamura, First Counsellor, Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda
On April 7th 2016, Rwanda and the world commemorated the 22nd anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi that took 1 million lives in just 100 days. For Rwandans, commemoration does not only remind us of a past never to be repeated, it is opportunity to further reflecting on how to deepen commitment towards achieving justice, peace and to give dignity to our loves one . In the 100days, what survivors need to hear is not just sympathy, but why 22 years later, countries are still failing their duty to investigate, prosecute and punish genocide perpetrators on their territories.
In a landmark decision, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, the UN Security Council unanimously passed Resolution 2150 (2014), the resolution condemns without any reservation any denial of the genocide against the Tutsi and calls upon states to investigate, arrest, prosecute or extradite and end impunity for those individuals accused of the genocide against the Tutsi who may be currently residing in their territories, and argued states to recommit themselves to the prevention of and fight against genocide and other serious atrocity crimes under international law.
The resolution also highlights lessons learned from the 1994 genocide against Tutsi and emphasizes the importance of education in order to prevent such atrocities in the future. Additionally, Resolution 2150 requests greater cooperation and coordination of existing early warning mechanisms in order to better “detect, assess and respond” to areas and populations of the world that may be particularly vulnerable to mass atrocities.
The question now is whether countries have adhered to the call of the Security Council decision to apprehend suspects on their territories. Will there be consequences to countries that have ignored this resolution? The enforcement mechanism of such a resolution is lacking and even the political willingness is lacking.
This year in Rwanda, the genocide against the Tutsi was commemorated under the theme, “fighting genocide ideology and denial.” As Rwandans reflect on this important theme, there are still pertinent questions that need answers and as we take stock of what happened to over a million innocent and defenseless men, women, and children. The government of Rwanda has decided to keep the focus on fighting genocide ideology and denial to respond to constant attempts by Genocide deniers to undermine the slaughter.
Under Rwandan law, the Genocide ideology is a crime that is defined as an aggregate of thoughts manifested by conduct, speeches, documents and other acts aiming at exterminating or inciting others to exterminate people based on their ethnic group, origin, nationality, region, colour, physical appearance, sex, language, religion or political opinion. the crime of Genocide ideology can be committed through marginalising, laughing at one’s misfortune, defaming, mocking, boasting, despising, degrading, creating confusion aiming at negating the genocide, stirring up ill feelings, taking revenge, altering testimony or evidence for the Genocide which occurred, killing, planning to kill or attempting to kill someone for purposes of furthering the ideology
As Rwanda commemorates genocide for the 22nd time, the world will be celebrating the 71st anniversary of the United Nations charter, in which its 194 members have pledged “never again” and have committed to “establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained. Among these treaties are those that have moved the prosecution of genocide from being an option to being a duty.
After the Holocaust in 1945, a number of Nazis took off their uniforms and disappeared into different countries around world. It was easy then because international law was still underdeveloped, international cooperation was limited and countries had no information technology and ways to track them. As a result, there are 140,000 people on outstanding arrest warrants. The world should not make the same mistakes it did after the Holocaust. Today, countries are better equipped with international norms and technologies to allow tracking, investigating and prosecuting of genocide suspects.
The Genocide Convention, for example, unequivocally obliges countries to “provide effective penalties for persons guilty of genocide.” Similarly, the four Geneva Conventions provide that everyone, among its now 194 member states, “shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts.” This obligation is also recognized in customary international law.
Despite this international obligation, hundreds of genocide suspects are still enjoying freedom in a number of countries around the world, especially Europe. European citizen should demand their governments not to allow their countries to be a safe haven for genocide perpetrators.
Countries need to know that prosecuting or extraditing suspects of genocide is a duty, and failure to do so constitutes a serious violation of international law. Until now, Rwanda and other countries that take this duty seriously have given priority to the use of cooperation, persuasion and rewards to convince countries to deal with genocide suspects on their territory. As patience runs out, however, it may not be a surprise if Rwanda or another interested country to start looking for avenues to force these countries to fulfill their international duty to extradite or prosecute genocide suspects.