Canadian senator Gen. (Rtd) RomeÌo Dallaire, former diplomats at the United Nations and eminent researchers, academics and investigative journalists from around the world have taken the lead in the growing chorus demanding the BBC management to retract and apologise for a documentary they say revises and distorts the truth about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Dallaire, author of Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, was the whistle-blowing commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, whose alerts about an impending genocide by Juvenal Habyarima’s regime 20 years ago were tragically ignored by his bosses in New York, resulting in the slaughter of more than a million people.
The 38 petitioners also want the BBC to institute a transparent enquiry into the manner in which the documentary, “Rwanda: Untold Story,” was commissioned and subsequently broadcast on BBC2’s This World programme on October 1.
“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 wrote in an October 12 letter addressed to the Director of BBC, Tony Hall.
“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 wrote.
“We urge the BBC to apologise for the offence this programme has caused for all victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.”
They say the film “tarnishes the BBC’s reputation for objective and balanced journalism.”
They question the decision by the programme makers to ignore valuable research conducted by various individuals and organisations over the years, and accuse the BBC of recycling revisionist material that had for years circulated “far and wide as part of an on-going ‘Hutu Power’ campaign of genocide denial.”
The allegations in the one-hour film are largely made by known critics of President Paul Kagame’s government, including former Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) officials who are now fugitives from justice, an army defectors and former lawyers of Genocide masterminds at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
By giving a platform to Genocide deniers and revisionists, and broadcasting the film, the experts say the BBC had been “recklessly irresponsible.”
“The programme has further “emboldened the geÌnocidaires, their supporters and collaborators.
It has provided them with 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 letter says.
‘Final stage of the crime’
Citing research by one of the world’s preeminent genocide scholars, the Prof. Greg H. Stanton, the researchers say denial of genocide is recognised as “the final stage of the crime.”
“We accept and support that it is legitimate to investigate, with due diligence and respect for factual evidence, any crimes committed by the 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.
“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 minimise 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 RPF.
“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 geÌnocidaires and a few ICTR defence lawyers.”
“The false figures cited are provided by two US academics who worked for a team of lawyers defending the geÌnocidaires 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.”
Most of the researchers who signed off on the letter have previously made groundbreaking research findings on how the Genocide was systematically planned.
The coalition of researchers questions BBC’s motives in ignoring historical facts.
“The film pays no heed to a detailed expert report published in January 2012 by a French magistrate Judge Marc TreÌvidic.
“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.”
The film-maker, Jane Corbin, who presented the programme, they say, “even tries to raise doubts about whether or not the RPF stopped the Genocide.”
“The authority on this subject is Gen. Dallaire, the Force commander of the Unamir, and present in Rwanda throughout the Genocide,” they wrote.
The documentary has also provoked outrage and protests from Genocide survivors, both in Rwanda and abroad, with both the umbrella organisation of survivors, Ibuka, and its member associations in the UK delivering letters of protest as well as demonstrating at the BBC headquarters in London.
To read the letter in full, click here