Report: UN could have stopped Rwanda genocide

By WILLIAM M. REILLY  |  July 7, 2000
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UNITED NATIONS, July 7 -- An Organization of African Unity report Friday principally blamed the U.N. Security Council, and the United States in particular, for failing to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda in which as many as 800,000 people were killed and recommended reparations be paid victims by those responsible.

The 318-page report, "Rwanda: The Preventable Genocide," by an International Panel of Eminent Personalities was commissioned by the OAU to investigate events surrounding the genocide of mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus by Rwandan Hutus in the Great Lakes Region of Africa.

The panel was also asked to specifically investigate the 1993 Arusha (Tanzania) Peace Agreement, the 1994 plane crash that killed Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi President Cyprien Ntaryamira, the genocide that followed and the subsequent refugee crisis which has contributed to the current war in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo, then called Zaire.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan last December received an independent report he had commissioned with the approval of the Security Council into the actions of the world organization leading up to and during the genocide. At the time he was head of U.N. peacekeeping operations.

"All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it," Annan said on receiving that report. "There was a United Nations force in the country at the time, but it was neither mandated nor equipped for the kind of forceful action which would have been needed to prevent or halt the genocide. On behalf of the United Nations, I acknowledge this failure and express my deep remorse."

The OAU commissioned the panel for the one-year study, under the chairmanship of former Botswana President Ketumile Masire. He has been chosen by the OAU to act as a peace facilitator in the DRC.

The panel said in a highlights statement accompanying the report: "This terrible conspiracy only succeeded because certain actors external to Rwanda allowed it to go ahead. Of these the most important was the U.N. Security Council. Its members could have prevented the genocide from taking place. They failed to do so.

"As a direct result, as many as 800,000 Tutsi and many thousands of anti-government Hutu were murdered," the panel said. "Hundreds of thousands more, including women and children suffered unimaginable suffering and suffer still."

"Millions of Rwandan Hutu became internally displaced within the country or fled to become refugees in neighboring countries," the report said.

Some of the other "actors" identified in the report included, "France in Rwanda itself; the U.S. at the Security Council; Belgium, whose soldiers knew they could save countless lives if they were allowed to remain in the country, and Rwanda's church leaders."

The report said 500 French troops landed at Kigali, Rwanda, after the bloodletting and began to evacuate French citizens "some 400 Rwandans, many of them linked to the Habyarimana family," including the president's wife and "No Tutsi were flown out, not even those who had long worked for French organizations."

The panelists said, "Rwanda's elaborate governing structure implemented the genocide with gruesome efficiency. All received indispensable support from the Hutu leadership of the (Roman) Catholic and Anglican churches. With some heroic exceptions, church leaders played a conspicuously scandalous role in these months, at best remaining silent or explicitly neutral.

"This stance was easily interpreted by ordinary Christians as an implicit endorsement of the killings, as was the close association of church leaders with the leaders of the Genocide," they said. "Perhaps this explains the greatest mystery about the genocide: The terrible success of Hutu Power in making so many ordinary people accomplices in genocide. In no other way could so many human beings have been killed so swiftly."

"Three-quarters of the entire Tutsi population," using the most conservative estimate, the study said, "were systematically killed in just over 100 days."

"The United States had the influence within the U.N. Security Council to ensure the authorization of a military mission that could have prevented the genocide before it was launched," the panelists said. "Even once the genocide began, a serious military mission could dramatically have reduced the magnitude of the slaughter. But the United States made sure that no such force would ever reach Rwanda, even after it was known beyond question that one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies was unfolding."

The report called for "a significant level of reparation to be paid by those who failed to prevent or mitigate the genocide." It said the case of Germany after World War II set the precedent and called on Annan to establish a commission to determine a formula for the reparations and to identify which countries have an obligation to pay.

"We urge all those parties that have apologized for their role in the genocide, and those who have yet to apologize, to support strongly our call for the secretary-general to appoint a commission to determine reparations owed by the international community to Rwanda."

It also called for, among other recommendations, a review of the 1948 Geneva Convention on Genocide, seeking a better definition of the crime, a mechanism to prevent genocide, the process for determining when a genocide is occurring, the legal obligation of states when genocide is declared.

It urged considering "the concept of 'universal jurisdiction,' that is the right of any government to arrest and try a person for the crime of genocide wherever it was committed."

The panelists also recommended creating a Special Rapporteur for the Genocide Convention within the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"A common human rights curriculum with special reference to the genocide and its lessons should be introduced in all schools in the Great Lakes Region," they recommended. "Such a curriculum should include peace education, conflict resolution, human rights, children's rights and humanitarian law."

In the panel with Masire were Gen. Ahmadou Toumani Tour, former head of state of Mali; Lisbet Palme, widow of assassinated Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme and chairman of the Swedish Committee for UNICEF; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, former Liberian government minister; Justice P.N. Bhagwati, former chief justice of the Supreme Court of India; Sen. Hocine Djoudi, former Algerian Ambassador to France and UNESCO; and former Ambassador Stephen Lewis of Canada to the United Nations and former deputy executive director of UNICEF.NEWLN:

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