Amnesty International says Rwanda has no competence to judge its citizens implicated in the 1994 genocide of Tutsis.
“Amnesty International (AI) is calling on the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and states that have been requested to extradite individuals accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes to Rwandan courts for trial not to do so until Rwanda....”
Before the planned closure of the Arusha tribunal at the end of 2008, the ICTR is prepared to transfer a certain number of criminal cases to Rwanda. The ICTR, unlike AI, has examined the conditions under which justice is dispensed in Rwanda; it has observed prison conditions virtually on a daily basis very closely followed up the construction of a new prison for prisoners from Arusha.
The Tribunal’s Prosecutor agrees that justice in Rwanda meets the standards of fair trial and has independent and professional judges. He asked that four suspects, three of whom are detained in Arusha, be tried before Rwandan courts.. He also asked for the case of another fugitive be transferred to Kigali. The defence lawyers have denounced this request with the pretext that “fairness and impartiality of Rwandan courts are only empty words”
“The responsibility for transfers is incumbent on ICTR judges”. Prisoners may plead guilty to increase the speed of trials in Arusha and avoid going back to Rwanda. We do not however know whether these judges, who theoretically are independent, may reach such a decision.
Outside the ICTR, some countries have chosen to judge the suspects on the basis of international jurisdiction. Examples of these countries are Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, Holland, Norway and Finland. The United Kingdom is still undecided. France has preferred neither to judge nor extradite suspects because of its past privileged relation with the former genocidal regime. In a special case, Belgium asked Rwanda to extradite one of its nationals arrested on Rwandan territory on suspicion of complicity in the genocide, and it was done.
When we examine this situation, we see that AI appeal should be put in a wider context, beyond the competence of that organisation.
According to AI, Rwanda is not capable of judging its nationals suspected of genocide, currently held in detention in foreign countries. This is a serious allegation. This means, if we are to believe the assertions of AI, that Rwanda was not qualified to try all those cases that have up to now been heard in its courts of law. To deny a country the exercise its legal rights, which include the right to judge its nationals, is to deny that country its right to exist. Now, the country in question is internationally recognized. The denial by AI is unprecedented and it should be questioned what right AI has to challenge the existence and legitimacy of a state.
Does the self-given authority, by human rights organisations in general and AI in particular, to rule that a country is incapable of exercising its legal rights, not put them in a position above that of nations?
4. The rise of civil society organizations and NGOs
It is a feature of all organisations to expand their sphere of operations. AI started out as an organisation to defend prisoners of conscience.
Many people benefited from this and are grateful. After success in this field, AI has little by little assigned itself the task of defending all the rights of all citizens, a task that challenges the very existence of states.
What is known today as “civil society” has gradually gained importance and favourable opinion, partly because the role of the state in Western countries was becoming intolerably burdensome, and partly because the new states in what is known as the Third World had failed to defend the common good against individual pursuit of wealth.
Ever since, the so-called non-governmental organisations have been growing like mushrooms. People are organising themselves in NGOs; every religious group is an NGO and has other NGOs; and every political party has one or two of its own. Existing organizations embraced the movement. In their irresistible rise, these organizations have made states grant them a share in international assistance funds, and they replaced state organisations that were expensive and inefficient.
Just like any other organization in civil society, especially those set up with the object of defending human rights, AI has plunged into the gap left by governments and taken up the role of defending the citizens in the place of their governments.
With the growth of internationalism and the lack of an international government to take care of the citizens of the world, the failure of attempts by the UN in general and the Security Council in particular to manage the coexistence of unequal states, an “international civil society” emerged to fill the vacancy as a precursor of the NGO world government.
The effects of this kind of power are mostly felt in counties that have gained independence from colonial powers. In these states, the new citizen who was used to being dependent and had little self-esteem easily accepted the power of organizations that prolonged the action of the colonial metropolis.
In this way when organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters without Borders, ICG, EurAc and others place injunctions on former colonies. One wonders who has charged them with lording it over us. The only answer seems to be that they have inherited the mantle of the old colonial powers.
Another factor is obviously the rampant poverty in these countries whose resources depend heavily on former colonial masters and, as a consequence, the weakness of the local civil society organisations starved of human and material resources.
These are more susceptible to exchanging their rights for a plate of food. Some of the less courteous international NGOs will not hesitate to use foreign aid as a means of controlling governments that are poor but stubborn.
To be continued