ICTR’s successors still have time to do the right thing

The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, a body set up by the United Nations to tie the loose ends of the Rwandan (ICTR) and Yugoslav (ICTY) international tribunals, is still trying to get its footing right.

It would be an understatement to say it inherited an international mess that has refused to go away up to now.

When the Minister for Justice paid them a visit in Arusha this week, he gave them a far reaching message that needs some serious introspection on the part of the tribunal: The ICTR had some landmark achievements such as recognising that what happened in Rwanda was a genocide, and that rape and the media were used as weapons of war and genocide.

On the other hand, it was the negative part that will come to haunt them more when the final bell rings, such as the degrading and insensitive treatment of witness Genocide survivors ­­- especially by defence lawyers - which the tribunal allowed to go on unhindered.

Others were the early release of convicted génocidaires, acquittals on technicalities and allowing all those former suspects and convicts to continue with their denial campaigns unhindered in the safety of UN compounds.

It also goes without saying that the tribunal has mysteriously refused to turn over ICTR archives, most of which were provided by the Government and individuals.

Some Genocide victims might be able to find closure while others will continue to live with their demons in silence. But will those who cut corners, broke every rule with impunity to set free the worst monsters of the 20th century really look themselves in the mirror and see an innocent reflection?

It is up to the successors of the ICTR to choose what legacy they want to leave behind – either do the right thing or forever live with the sign of shame prominently etched on their forehead.


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