Wednesday, February 14, 2007
War Crimes Prosecutor: Rwanda Genocide Was ‘Programmed’
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
The perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide were “programmed” by a relatively small number of individuals, a prosecutor with the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda told a local audience yesterday.
Barbara Mulvaney, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, yesterday joined Pepperdine University professor and international security expert Dan Caldwell on a panel entitled “Genocide and Religion: Collective Resistance.”
The discussion was part of the Genocide and Religion conference which took place at the university the last three days, co-sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Pepperdine’s Institute on Law, Religion and Ethics.
Mulvaney, a senior trial attorney currently prosecuting members of the Rwandan military in a trial that began in 2002 and is scheduled to end this year, defended the tribunal’s decision to charge only 66 defendants with responsibility for the killing of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans. Most of those killed were members of the Tutsi minority, but thousands of majority Hutus who opposed the genocide were also among its victims.
Those killings took place over a space of about 100 days, beginning in April 1994.
The tribunal, based in Arusha, Tanzania, is necessary, she said, because there was no alternative way of bringing the perpetrators to justice. When she went to Rwanda to interview survivors, she said, she was told that “had we not meet there, no one would have been held accountable,” in part because “the vast majority of their lawyers and judges had been killed.”
Mulvaney described her early days with the tribunal, interviewing witnesses by day and watching recordings of the genocide at night. The “man with the machete in his hands,” she said, was generally a person with little knowledge of the world who was acting at the behest of Hutu extremists in the media, the military, and the Christian clergy.
Prosecuting the military defendants for the planning and execution of the genocide, which took place over a period of four years, has been an overwhelming experience at times, Mulvaney said. She recounted how she and and her team were ordered to pare their original list of 800 witnesses—which she acknowledged had to be whittled down, otherwise the trial “would take forever”—to 100.
One of the things that has distinguished the case from other war crimes trials, she explained, is that the defendants are charged with using “sexual violence and rape as a tool of genocide.” She explained how she was able to qualify an expert to explain why the defendants encouraged the rape of thousands of women, many of whom were killed afterwards, as part of their effort to annihilate the Tutsi people.
She quoted Gen. Romeo Dellaire, the Canadian who led the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, as writing that amidst all of the horrors, “the hardest thing to witness was the sexual violence against the women.” She also cited Dellaire’s aide, Brent Beardsley, who gave graphic testimony at the trial and quoted the general as saying: “The massacres kill the body, but rape kills the soul.”
The “good news,” Mulvaney told the conference, is that “all of you are part of the collective resistance to genocide.” What people of good will need to do, she said, is to be sensitive to the signs of aggression in the making, including “people being demonized” by “hate media.”
She praised the group Human Rights Watch, and in particular one of its Africa experts, Allison DeForge, who testified for 30 days about the history of the Hutu-Tutsi conflict. DeForge, Mulvaney explained, testified about events occurring as early as 1990, including “dress rehearsal massacres” that would have alerted the world and perhaps drawn an international response had they not occurred in a country with “no resources,” one that few were aware of even after the genocide, at least until the movie “Hotel Rwanda” reached movie screens.
Mulvaney expressed reservations about the International Criminal Court, which some of the other conference participants support but which the United States has thus far declined to join, citing the possibility that it could be used to prosecute American soldiers.
International tribunals such as the UNICTR, she explained, while they include lawyers and judges from many countries, have adopted a “style of law” similar to what Americans are used to. A civil law model, in which witnesses are interviewed by an investigating judge who prepares a transcript of their testimony for possible use at trial may be better suited to war crimes cases, she said.
Copyright 2007, Metropolitan News Company