Why the West continues to entertain Genocide denial

Editor, Refer to your editorial, "Genocide denial should be made an international crime" (The New Times, October 16). Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in many European countries. Racial abuse is also outlawed in such countries as France.
Genocide survivors stage a protest outside BBC headquarters in London, in response to the revisionist film, about two weeks ago. (Courtesy)
Genocide survivors stage a protest outside BBC headquarters in London, in response to the revisionist film, about two weeks ago. (Courtesy)

Editor,

Refer to your editorial, “Genocide denial should be made an international crime” (The New Times, October 16).

Holocaust denial is a criminal offence in many European countries. Racial abuse is also outlawed in such countries as France. Glorifying terrorism (especially against themselves or their close allies) is similarly proscribed in all Western jurisdictions, including the US and the UK, despite their claims of freedom of expression.

And yet all these laws, despite their claimed universality, seem not to apply or to apply haphazardly or selectively when the victims are black, Africans or when they are Rwandan victims in particular.

We all remember the wholesale vilification by a French author, Pierre Pean, of an entire people, the Tutsi, as congenital liars. Despite laws outlawing such racial calumny, French justice acquitted Mr Pean of the offence, confirming the African adage that when a monkey hurts you, it is useless to seek legal redress from a baboon; they are two of a kind.

Similarly, the French courts have refused to extradite suspects of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to Rwanda on the grotesque grounds that at the time of their genocidal acts for which they are wanted for trial “genocide was not a crime in Rwanda”.

The same French courts have dragged their feet in the most ridiculous manner to avoid trying Genocide suspects on their territory whom the ICTR inexplicably referred France for trial many years ago (inexplicable because France was an active ally of the génocidaires and has shown clear partiality for their murderous cause to expect the country’s authorities to provide justice for the Genocide’s victims; to ask Paris to do so violates the principles of natural justice).

The UK has similarly refused to extradite well-known génocidaires, preferring to defeat the cause of justice and the obligations of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, to which it is a party, on the spurious political grounds that the suspects might not get a fair hearing in the jurisdiction where they committed the crime of genocide. This is despite the many suspects that have been extradited from Western countries and by the ICTR and the conclusion by the European Court of Human Rights that the Rwandan courts are fair and competent.

If all these powerful nations are prepared to violate their solemn undertakings to prevent and punish the crime of genocide, at any rate as it relates to Rwanda, it is forlorn to hope that they would be interested in legally proscribing its denial.

I suspect the reasons for this lie in the circumstances within which the Genocide against the Tutsi was allowed to be carried out: total indifference by the overwhelming majority of the world’s major powers, with one of their members and close allies with whom they share innumerable economic, cultural, human and security interests, very actively involved in helping the génocidaires, before, during, and after the crime.

To expect that those who refused to prevent and then to punish for the crime would then be prepared to criminalise its denial shows you do not sufficiently grasp the reality of the amoral nature of geopolitics.

If all these countries that have decided not to respect their international treaty commitments or even their domestic legal obligations as they both relate to Rwanda, it isn’t because they are unaware of this fact—it is because the imperatives of realpolitik requires it.

Mwene Kalinda

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