A close follow up of Kenneth Roth’s paper trail on Rwanda for the last 8 years reveals a rather curious observation. As Executive Director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), one would naturally be inclined to think that HRW would conduct its operations in an impartial manner.
Especially on Rwanda’s seemingly complex topic known as the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi and its aftermath.
The contrary however emerges. As a former judge of the USA judiciary, Roth is aware that certain basic infrastructure requirements are necessary for the purposes of dispensing justice.
However that cannot be said to have been the case in Rwanda immediately after the Genocide. The genocidaires after suffering a crashing defeat at the hands of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) forces and before retreating to the jungles of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) set out to destroy what was left of Rwanda’s crumbling justice system.
This earth scorch policy against Rwanda’s judiciary by the genocidaires is not something that Roth has recognized.
I say so, because Rwanda with numerous challenges that I cannot exhaust in this piece started from ground zero to lay the foundation for a working nation including combating impunity using what ever basic resources it could muster at that time.
The Gacaca judicial system—the home grown solution provided the only feasible remedy given the myriad of challenges that faced Rwandans after 1994.
Rwandan prisons were crammed full with thousands of rounded up genocidaires and their accomplices while survivors cried out for justice outside the prison gates. Government, on the other hand was resource constrained to mete out justice expeditiously using the classic western approaches that are well known to the likes of Roth.
If anything is it not well known that Genocide constitutes one of the greatest crimes against humanity? Did the Government have any other option apart from using Gacaca given the circumstances of the time?
Instead Roth went around talking about ‘victor’s justice’ and trashing Gacaca that was serving more than a single challenge.
Post Genocide Rwanda had to juggle competing but compelling cases of either delivering retributive or restorative justice to dispense to a people shattered by ravages of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Restorative justice looked more appealing which Gacaca espoused as opposed to a retributive approach that the likes of Roth championed. To rub salt onto injury Roth in 2009, penned down a piece in a paper in the USA known as ‘Power of horror in Rwanda’.
In this article Roth said that the Government of Rwanda has been playing on the psychology of the West by revoking their guilt over their inability to stop the Genocide in order to get away with what he termed as state ‘excesses’.
Roth talked about Rwanda having a ‘facade of occasional elections’, while the government, he alleged, was being run as a one-party state. And ironically, Roth said ‘it is the genocide that has provided the government with a cover for repression’.
At around the same time Roth had petitioned the ICTR to prosecute some Rwandan military officers supposedly on account of having committed crimes during the Genocide. Hassan Jallow the Chief Prosecutor at ICTR would have none of Roth’s half baked arguments.
Jallow in response to Kenneth’s petition told HRW that the essence of the struggle against impunity is to ensure accountability, wherever it can be delivered, provided it is done effectively.
Not in the way HRW was advocating. He added that while Rwandans themselves were going about it through their national jurisdictions such cases would be conducted only if amply supported by concrete evidence.
Jallow added that such cases had to consider other potentially greater impacts that the country needed such as national reconciliation which Roth seemed to have failed to appreciate.
While struggling to understand Roth’s modus operandi on Rwanda I stumbled upon his massive critique of Henry Kissinger’s treatise on the concept of universal jurisdictions.
In ‘The Pitfalls of Universal Jurisdiction’ former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger catalogues a list of grievances against this judicial concept. Kissinger talks about the loopholes existent in the system which Rothwent ahead to trash.
A good example would be the genocidaires some of whom still walk freely within western capitals 16 years after committing atrocious crimes against humanity.
Why are western capitals not bringing known genocidaires to book in the spirit of this concept? Why is Roth not passionately petitioning these western powers to act in the same way he did with ICTR?
While Roth was discussing in his response to Kissinger’s concerns, some of the ‘best approaches’ the world can use to battle impunity, a rather curious observation hit me.
The genocidaires having exploited some of these very loopholes within classic western jurisprudence, enabled them to mutate into a political force known as FDU-Inkingi, posted on their website is Roth’s own 2009 petition against the Rwandan military officers.
This petition is still existent on FDU’s website to date. Roth and the HRW has not even bothered to advise FDU to remove the posting of that petition on FDU’s website given the issue of impartiality I earlier mentioned.
So the question begs-How impartial is Roth on the issue of the Rwandan 1994 Genocide? By allowing his 2009 petition against serving Rwandan officers to be posted on a genocidaire website, Roth can be seen to have a love affair with this group of individuals.
There seems to be no other way of explaining the paper trail that Roth unleashed over Rwanda ever since he was named to the post of Executive Director of HRW.
It is also worth mentioning that Roth has had serious problems with some of the western interest groups within the human rights industry. Last year over 100 experts from leading institutions among them Harvard University and others criticized HRW on their report on Venezuela.
They poured cold water on HRW’s report saying that this particular report ‘does not meet even the most minimal standards of scholarship, impartiality, accuracy, or credibility’.
HRW having been cornered, responded by saying it did the report because it wanted ‘merely’ to demonstrate to the world that Venezuela was not a model for anyone to emulate. Kenneth Roth’s credibility has suffered a terrible blow as head of HRW as we speak.