Global researchers protest BBC Genocide revisionist film

A group of 38 eminent scholars, researchers, historians and journalists from around the world has demanded that the BBC apologises for broadcasting an hour-long documentary earlier this month which they say revises and distorts the reality about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
CLOCKWISE: Renowned British researcher and author Prof. Linda Melvern; Canadian Senator Gen. (Rdt) Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the UN force in Rwanda during the Genocide; former Czech Representative on the UN Security Council, Amb. Karel Kovanda; and Boubacar Boris Diop of Sénégal, author of ‘Murambi, the Book of Bones, are among those who signed the letter. (Internet photos)
CLOCKWISE: Renowned British researcher and author Prof. Linda Melvern; Canadian Senator Gen. (Rdt) Romeo Dallaire, the commander of the UN force in Rwanda during the Genocide; former Czech Representative on the UN Security Council, Amb. Karel Kovanda; and Boubacar Boris Diop of Sénégal, author of ‘Murambi, the Book of Bones, are among those who signed the letter. (Internet photos)

A group of 38 eminent scholars, researchers, historians and journalists from around the world has demanded that the BBC apologises for broadcasting an hour-long documentary earlier this month which they say revises and distorts the reality about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

In an October 12 letter to the Director-General of the BBC, Tony Hall, the researchers expressed “grave concern at the content of the documentary ‘Rwanda’s Untold Story’ (This World, BBC 2 Wednesday October 1).”

“We hope that the BBC management will quickly realise the gravity of the genocide denial in ‘Rwanda’s Untold Story’. We call upon the BBC to explain how the programme came to be made and the editorial decision-making which allowed it to be broadcast,” they said.

“In the course of any internal BBC enquiry we hope all relevant documents from the This World archive and from senior editors involved in approving the programme will be released for study,” they added.

The researchers, who have separately spent years investigating and writing about the events that rocked Rwanda two decades ago, said the documentary “tarnishes the BBC’s well-deserved reputation for objective and balanced journalism.”

“We urge the BBC to apologise for the offence this programme has caused for all victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.”

The film, which carries interviews with a group of known opponents of President Paul Kagame’s government and justice fugitives, has provoked protests from Genocide survivors with both the umbrella organisation of survivors, Ibuka, and its member associations in the UK also delivering written protests as well as carrying out demonstrations at the BBC headquarters in London.

The researchers say there was nothing new about the allegations, accusing the BBC of recycling the same revisionist material that had for years been “distributed far and wide as part of an on-going ‘Hutu Power’ campaign of genocide denial.”

“At the heart of this campaign are convicted génocidaires, some of their defence lawyers from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and their supporters and collaborators.”

“We accept and support that it is legitimate to investigate, with due diligence and respect for factual evidence, any crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and to reflect on the contemporary political situation in Rwanda,” the petitioners wrote.

“However, attempts to examine these issues should not distort the reality of the 1994 genocide. It is not legitimate to use current events to either negate or to diminish the genocide. Nor is it legitimate to promote genocide denial,” the scholars wrote.

The petitioners added: “Three of the untenable claims made in the programme are of the utmost concern: the first is a lie about the true nature of the Hutu Power militia.

“The second is an attempt to minimize the number of Tutsi murdered in the genocide, and the third is an effort to place the blame for shooting down President Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994 on the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)”.

“Third, the film argues that the shooting down of the plane on April 6, 1994 was perpetrated by the RPF. This same story was promoted by Hutu Power extremists within a few hours of the president’s assassination and promoted ever since by génocidaires and a few ICTR defence lawyers.”

In the documentary, the BBC questioned the orthodox standard narrative of the Genocide, with interviewees largely blaming the RPF and Kagame for the Genocide with some two controversial American researchers even revising the number of the Tutsi victims of the slaughter from an estimated one million people to 200,000.

“The programme attempts to minimise the number of Tutsi murdered, a typical tactic of genocide deniers. The false figures cited are provided by two US academics who worked for a team of lawyers defending the génocidaires at the ICTR.

“They even claim that in 1994 more Hutu than Tutsi were murdered – an absurd suggestion and contrary to all the widely available research reported by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Commission, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Africa Rights, a UN Security Council mandated Commission of Experts and evidence submitted to the ICTR and other European courts who have successfully put on trial several perpetrators,” the researchers wrote to the BBC.

On the fact the BBC made reference to biased research that attempt to blame the RPF for the downing of Habyarimana’s plane, an incident that is seen as the trigger of the killings, the experts said, “the film pays no heed to a detailed expert report published in January 2012 by a French magistrate Judge Marc Trévidic.

“This contains evidence from French experts, including crash investigators, who proved scientifically that the missiles that shot down the plane came from the confines of the government-run barracks in Kanombe on the airport’s perimeter – one of the most fortified places in the country, and where it would have been impossible for the RPF, armed with a missile, to penetrate.

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FULL LETTER AND LIST OF THE PETITIONERS

Mr. Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, Broadcasting House, Portland Place,
London, W1A 1AA

October 12, 2014

Dear Sir,
We the undersigned, scholars, scientists, researchers, journalists and historians are writing to you today to express our grave concern at the content of the documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story (This World, BBC 2, Wednesday, October 1), specifically its coverage of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi.

We accept and support that it is legitimate to investigate, with due diligence and respect for factual evidence, any crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and to reflect on the contemporary political situation in Rwanda. However, attempts to examine these issues should not distort the reality of the 1994 genocide. It is not legitimate to use current events to either negate or to diminish the genocide. Nor is it legitimate to promote genocide denial.

The parts of the film which concern the 1994 genocide, far from providing viewers with an ‘Untold Story’ as the title promises, are old claims. For years similar material using similar language has been distributed far and wide as part of an on-going ‘Hutu Power’ campaign of genocide denial. At the heart of this campaign are convicted génocidaires, some of their defence lawyers from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and their supporters and collaborators. These deniers continually question the status of the genocide and try to prove – like the programme – that what it calls the ‘official narrative’ of the 1994 genocide is wrong. The BBC programme Rwanda’s Untold Story recycles their arguments and provides them with another platform to create doubt and confusion about what really happened.

Three of the untenable claims made in the programme are of the utmost concern: the first is a lie about the true nature of the Hutu Power militia. The second is an attempt to minimize the number of Tutsi murdered in the genocide, and the third is an effort to place the blame for shooting down President Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994 on the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

First, the programme allows a witness to claim that ‘only ten percent of the Interahamwe (militia) were killers’. In fact, the majority of Hutu Power militia forces – estimated to have been 30,000 strong – were trained specifically to kill Tutsi at speed, and indoctrinated in a racist ideology, part of genocide planning. There is eyewitness testimony by several militia leaders who cooperated with the ICTR.

Second, the programme attempts to minimise the number of Tutsi murdered, a typical tactic of genocide deniers. The false figures cited are provided by two US academics who worked for a team of lawyers defending the génocidaires at the ICTR. They even claim that in 1994 more Hutu than Tutsi were murdered – an absurd suggestion and contrary to all the widely available research reported by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Commission, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Africa Rights, a UN Security Council mandated Commission of Experts and evidence submitted to the ICTR and other European courts who have successfully put on trial several perpetrators.

Third, the film argues that the shooting down of the plane on April 6, 1994 was perpetrated by the RPF. This same story was promoted by Hutu Power extremists within a few hours of the president’s assassination and promoted ever since by génocidaires and a few ICTR defence lawyers.

The film pays no heed to a detailed expert report published in January 2012 by a French magistrate Judge Marc Trévidic. This contains evidence from French experts, including crash investigators, who proved scientifically that the missiles that shot down the plane came from the confines of the government-run barracks in Kanombe on the airport’s perimeter – one of the most fortified places in the country, and where it would have been impossible for the RPF, armed with a missile, to penetrate.

Within hours of the president’s assassination, in this carefully planned genocide, roadblocks went up all over Kigali and the Presidential Guard started to target every member of Rwanda’s political opposition.

These momentous events are barely mentioned. The members of the Hutu and Tutsi pro-democracy movements were hunted down and killed, including Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, and ten UN peacekeepers from Belgium who were protecting her. These opposition politicians separately threatened the Habyarimana regime for advocating power-sharing and paid for their courage with their lives. Ignored in this film are the Hutu Power attempts to divide the internal political opposition along ethnic lines. Political violence in the film is seen only in the context of a ‘civil war’ between the RPF and the Habyarimana government, a smoke screen, used then and now, to hide the systematic killing of Tutsi carried out by the Hutu Power Interim Government and its militia.

The film-maker, Jane Corbin, who presented the programme, even tries to raise doubts about whether or not the RPF stopped the genocide. The authority on this subject is Lt.-General Roméo Dallaire, the Force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), and present in Rwanda throughout the genocide. Dallaire is categorical. ‘The genocide was stopped because the RPF won and stopped it’, he says. Corbin ignores the testimonies of direct witnesses to what happened in 1994: Dallaire and his volunteer UN peacekeepers, Philippe Gaillard and the medics at the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Dr. James Orbinski of Médecins Sans FrontieÌ€res. Years of research and writing by academics and other experts along with hours of films by journalists who work for the BBC – all of this eyewitness testimony is dismissed as if fraudulent.

In broadcasting this documentary the BBC has been recklessly irresponsible. The programme has fuelled genocide denial. It has further emboldened the génocidaires, all their supporters and those who collaborate with them. It has provided them the legitimacy of the BBC. Denial of genocide causes the gravest offence to survivors. For them, the genocide is not a distant event from 20 years ago but a reality with which they live every day.

The denial of genocide is now widely recognised as the final stage of the crime. One of the world’s preeminent genocide scholars, the US Professor Greg H. Stanton, describes ten stages in genocide: classification of the population; symbolization of those classifications; discrimination against a targeted group; dehumanisation of the pariah group; organisation of the killers; polarisation of the population; preparation by the killers; persecution of the victims; extermination of the victims; and denial that the killing was genocide.

Denial, the final stage, ensures the crime continues. It incites new killing. It denies the dignity of the deceased and mocks those who survived. Denial of genocide is taken so seriously that in some European countries it is criminalized. In 2008 the Council of the European Union called upon states to criminalize genocide denial.

The 1994 genocide of the Tutsi should be treated by all concerned with the utmost intellectual honesty and rigour. We would be willing – indeed see it as our duty – to meet with journalists and to debate in a follow up programme the serious inaccuracies in Rwanda’s Untold Story.

We hope that the BBC management will quickly realise the gravity of the genocide denial in Rwanda’s Untold Story. We call upon the BBC to explain how the programme came to be made and the editorial decision-making which allowed it to be broadcast. In the course of any internal BBC enquiry we hope all relevant documents from the This World archive and from senior editors involved in approving the programme will be released for study.

Rwanda’s Untold Story tarnishes the BBC’s well-deserved reputation for objective and balanced journalism. We urge the BBC to apologise for the offence this programme has caused for all victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

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Signed

Professor Linda Melvern, Author, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide; Conspiracy to Murder

Senator Roméo Dallaire, Force Commander, UNAMIR

Professor Gregory H. Stanton, President, Genocide Watch

Mehdi BaJournalist and Author

Bishop Ken BarhamDr. Margaret Brearley Independent Scholar

Dr. Gerald CaplanAuthor, The Preventable Genocide

Professor Frank ChalkProfessor of History/Director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University, Co-author, ‘Mobilizing the Will to Intervene: Leadership to Prevent Mass Atrocities’ (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010)

Dr.Phil ClarkReader in Comparative and International Politics, SOAS, University of London

Boubacar Boris Diop, Sénégal. Author, Murambi, the book of bones

Jean-François Dupaquier, Author and Expert

HéleÌ€ne DumasDiploÌ‚mée de l’IEP d’Aix-en-Provence (2003), Docteur en histoire de l’EHESS (2013)

Professor Margee EnsignPresident, American University of Nigeria

Tim GallimoreIndependent genocide researcher

Peter GreavesFormer UNICEF staff member

Fred GrünfeldEmeritus professor in International Relations, Human Rights and the Causes of Gross Human Rights Violations, Universities of Maastricht and Utrecht, Netherlands. Author, The Failure to Prevent Genocide in Rwanda: The Role of Bystanders, 2007

Dr. Helen HintjensAssistant Professor in Development and Social Justice, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) The Hague

Dr. Georgina HolmesLecturer International Relations,
University of Portsmouth/Royal Holloway, University of London

Richard JohnsonAuthor, The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda

Eric Joyce MPAmbassador Karel Kovanda (ret), Czech Representative on the UN Security Council, 1994-95

Françoise LemagnenChief Executive, Survivors Fund (SURF)

Ambassador Stephen LewisFormer Canadian Ambassador to the UN.

W. Alan McClueVisiting Fellow, Bournemouth University/Cranfield University

Roland MoerlandPh.D. Researcher and Lecturer in Supranational and Organizational Criminology, Department of Criminal Law and Criminology Maastricht University, The Netherlands

George Monbiot, Author and Journalist

Jacques MorelAuthor, La France au coeur du génocide des Tutsi (2010)

Barbara MulvaneyInternational Law Consultant; Former Senior Trial Attorney - Bagosora et al., United Nations International Tribunal for Rwanda

Dr. Jude MurisonSchool of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Peter RaymontPresident, White Pine Pictures, Toronto, Canada

Professor Josias SemujangaProfesseur titulaire, Département des littératures de langue française, Université de Montréal, Quebec

Jonathan SaltManaging Director of Ojemba Education

Keith SomervilleSenior Research fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; Lecturer in Communications and Humanitarianism, Centre for Journalism, University of Kent

Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, Author and journalist

Dr James M. Smith, CBE CEO, Aegis Trust

Rafiki Ubaldo, Journalist

Andrew WallisAuthor, Silent Accomplice: The untold Story of the Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide, I.B.Tauris, 2014

Lillian Wong, O.B.E., British Chargé d’Affaires in Rwanda 1994-1995

 

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