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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 17:02 GMT
Kingsley Moghalu of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
Kingsley Chiedu Moghalu, the spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda answered your questions in a live forum.

To watch coverage of the forum, select the link below:

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The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - based in Arusha, Tanzania - was the first court to prosecute a head of government for genocide.

The Rwandan genocide occurred in 1994 when over a 100-day period, Hutu extremists killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

But since the conviction of former Prime Minister of Rwanda, Jean Kambanda, for his part in the 1994 massacres, the work of the tribunal has been slow and convictions few.

Critics blame the slowness on the Tribunal's own ineptitude. There is also a growing sense of anger and disappointment among survivors of the genocide.

Why are the trials taking so long? Why are they being held in Tanzania? Are there other heads of government in Africa who should be standing trial?


The topics discussed in this forum were:

  • Numbers awaiting trial
  • Perpetrators still at large
  • Convictions
  • Bias against Africa
  • World response
  • Role of the OAU
  • Further prosecutions
  • Cause of the massacre
  • Guilt of accusers

    Numbers awaiting trial


    Mike, Lagos, Nigeria:

    How many people are currently in jail awaiting trial and considering the slow pace of the indictments when will you conclude your assignment?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    There are about 53 people in detention, 17 of them are on trial and 9 of them their cases have finished. There have been 8 convictions and 1 acquittal. So when you combine the number of trials that have been completed and the number of people that are currently on trial in the dock in Arusha, I think it's very clear that more than half of the people that the tribunal has arrested have already had or are facing justice. Given that background, people of course always talk about how slow things are - yes indeed the international criminal justice is a very special type of justice, it is very unique, it is perfectionist, many languages are used in court, every document has to be translated into English, French. It is not a normal national court that people are used to. Nevertheless, the proceedings have been improved a great deal in recent months so we are expecting that the work of the tribunal should wrap up in the next 6 to 7 years.


    Newshost:

    Six to 7 years to go still because considering the importance for reconciliation in Rwanda - after all 800,000 people died let's not forget in those massacres - you can understand the impatience of people for swift justice.


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    Yes that's very understandable but victims and observers also have to understand that the judgment of the tribunal must stand the test of the judgment of history. We cannot have kangaroo justice, we cannot have justice that is so swift that appropriate human rights standards are not respected. That would be counterproductive and would open the work of the tribunal 50 years down the line to incredible criticism and make it illegitimate and that would be the worst thing that could happen for the victims of the Rwandan genocide.

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    Perpetrators still at large


    Mugiraneza Roger, Norway:

    What are you going to do to arrest the people who perpetrated crimes but are still at large?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    This is one of the areas where the tribunal has been very successful. We have had about 70 people indicted so far and we have about 53 of them in custody. The Hague tribunal, for example, has about 110 indicted and about 40 of them in custody. So I think this is one of the areas in which the Rwanda tribunal has been very successful. We have 20 people at large and the prosecution is looking for them and we will get them.


    Newshost:

    But you are talking about dozens of people, there must have been hundreds - thousands involved in the massacres.


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    Absolutely but the justice for the genocide is being pursued on two parallel tracks. The international tribunal does not replace the responsibility of the Rwandan government and Rwandan courts to mete out justice for the genocide. We are a special additional element targeting only the big fish, the top people who fled Rwanda after the genocide - people for whom without the existence of the Rwanda tribunal they would have escaped justice. These are the kind of people we are looking for.

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    Convictions


    De Mun, Paris, France

    Why have there been no convictions for anyone in power since 1994?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    Is he talking about people currently in power?


    Newshost:

    I think what he is probably saying is that Rwanda is not perfectly governed - does it have a continuing mandate or is your mandate only for the period of the massacres in 1994?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    The mandate of the tribunal is for crimes that were committed in Rwanda between January 1 and December 31 1994 - crimes committed within Rwanda or in neighbouring countries in 1994 - that calendar year is the limitation of the mandate - genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes.

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    Bias against Africa


    Adam, New York, USA:

    How does the amount of money spent on the Hague tribunal compare to that spent on the Arusha tribunal? Is there a bias here against Africa?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    You have to understand that the two international tribunals have different and specific circumstances so we must not always compare their budgets by the pennies. The important thing is, does each tribunal get the resources that it needs. In the beginning the Rwanda tribunal did not get enough funding - even the Hague tribunal also faced the same problem. In recent times, the tribunal in Arusha has received much more funding but nevertheless still significantly less than the Hague tribunal and the reason for this is the level of voluntary support. There is the regular budget, which all member states of the UN are assessed to pay for the two tribunals and then there is voluntary contributions - sort of standing up to be counted by various countries and that's where we fall a bit short. The support that is given to the Hague is far more in that context than the support that's given to the Arusha tribunal.


    Newshost:

    Do you feel that you have international recognition for the things that you have done? When former President Milosevic appears in court there's huge publicity - you've succeeded in convicting a former prime minister and there wasn't quite the same emphasis in the international media.


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    That's very true. There is not enough international recognition for the achievements of the Rwanda tribunal which arguably in the view of some, has been the most effective international court so far in terms of the people it has convicted. It has convicted the first head of government, as you rightly said. It was the first international court to render judgments for the crime of genocide setting precedents for the Hague and for the permanent international criminal court that is to come. But surprisingly you find that the emphasis when the international media is dealing with the tribunal is not so much on these achievements which have contributed significantly to the process of reconciliation in Rwanda. Instead of concentrating on this, people are looking for problems and what to criticise etc. Then when it comes to Milosevic you see a lot of emphasis on the importance of the achievement of bringing him to trial - this is a double standard and we blame the international media for it and we think it should change.

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    World response


    Haben B, Berkeley, CA, USA:

    More than 3,000 people were killed in New York City in one day. In Rwanda there were on average 8,000 victims per day for about 100 days. Yet the world's response was that much greater for New York. Is the international community perhaps as guilty for not responding to the Rwandan tragedy in the same manner?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    Of course every life is important but the context of what happened in New York is different from what happened in Rwanda. Eight hundred thousand people died in Rwanda within a period of three months for the period of the genocide - the international community failed the Rwandan people. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said as much. World leaders like Bill Clinton have said as much. So we all recognise that the world failed Rwanda. But it is not enough to say that, we have to do something and that is one of the reasons why the international criminal tribunal exists to make sure that these people have not died in vain and to make sure that the perpetrators of these crimes against them are brought to justice. One of the major achievements of the Rwanda tribunal is that by its convictions, by its judgments - you must remember it is not necessarily a conviction, there could be an acquittal because the trials are fair - the tribunal has been able to exclude from the Rwandan political space, extremists who were the kinds of people who perpetrated this genocide. There is no room for them anymore in Rwanda - there is very little room increasingly for people like that in the central African region and it is because of the work of this tribunal.

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    Role of the OAU


    Kwabena Amporful, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA:

    This genocide has been claimed by various bodies as unnecessary, in the sense that it could have been prevented with more effort from external bodies, like the Organisation of African Unity. Do you think that the OAU could have done more to prevent this genocide?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    Certainly I know that the Organisation of African Unity made a lot of efforts during the Rwandan genocide to try to mobilise international support for ending the genocide. But the international community as a whole has blamed itself and rightly so for its inaction in the face of the genocide. It is important to try to prevent these crimes rather than just waiting after the fact to establish tribunals. But nevertheless, half a loaf is better than none. There must be justice for those crimes to the extent that they were allowed to happen.


    Newshost:

    I suppose an international criminal court, if it happened, would make the difference.


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    An international criminal court that is permanent would be one weapon in the arsenal of preventive measures for such crimes. When we recognise that there's a permanent court and that any such actions could be brought before that court, it would make some people think twice. But we can't wish evil away - even in countries like America or Britain, advanced countries with advanced judicial systems, crimes still continue to be committed.

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    Further prosecutions


    Anne Kyomugisha, Toronto, Canada:

    There are other heads of government in Africa who should be standing trial. In my opinion Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Paul Kagame of Rwanda should be included. Would you like to see more people prosecuted?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    The work of the tribunal is based on evidence it's not based on opinions - political or personal - so I wouldn't want to comment on who should or should not be prosecuted, that's a matter for the prosecutor to decide and she acts on the basis of evidence.

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    Cause of massacre


    Aimable, Toronto, Canada:

    This tribunal has failed to prosecute the main culprits. It is obvious that the 1994 genocide happened because a plane carrying a Hutu president was shot down. Therefore, the first to be prosecuted should be the ones who shot down that plane. Do you now know who carried out this crime that sparked the massacre and are they potentially going to appear in your court?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    First of all I would like to make it very clear that the work of the tribunal has so far arrested very important people accused of the genocide which is the mandate of the tribunal - the mandate is to address the genocide. The plane crash that sparked the event was not in itself necessarily the crime that the tribunal was established to address. The previous prosecutor held the view that the question of the plane crash was not part of the tribunal's mandate and the current prosecutor is reviewing the matter and if and when she comes to a decision I think she will make her views well known. But I think it is necessary to point out that the prosecutor has said very clearly that this is not a one-sided tribunal. The people who may have committed crimes who were part of the RPF - that is the group that is ruling Rwanda today - if evidence is uncovered that they committed war crimes, they too will be prosecuted by the international tribunal.

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    Guilt of the accusers


    Harris, UK:

    Four people working for the tribunal have been accused of participating in the killings. What has happened to them?


    Kingsley Moghalu:

    First of all they were not staff member of the tribunal - this is a very popular misconception. We have defence teams that have the job of defending people who are accused and these lawyers hire independent contractors to investigate for the defence in order to help to establish their innocence, these are not staff members. However, because they are associated with the judicial process we have to make sure that they are thoroughly above board. If we found out that some of them have a dodgy record then we just get rid of them. So this is what we have done and they are just not part of the process anymore. We expelled them from the process and in fact in one case the prosecutor has indicted one of them because there was evidence.

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  • See also:

    16 Nov 01 | Africa
    Rwanda genocide conviction upheld
    10 Dec 01 | Europe
    Analysis: Defining genocide
    26 Aug 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
    Justice in Africa
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