I am writing in response to an article published in The New Times last week, “ICTR under spotlight over sentence downgrades for genocide ringleaders.” This article makes the extraordinary claim that “unlike the Holocaust, where documentary evidence was abundant, there is a lack of written evidence on the genocide”. This is simply not the case and it is a serious error when considering how the work of the tribunal has proceeded.
In July 1994, the UN Security Council established an Independent Commission of Experts to investigate the genocide, there was documentary evidence discovered in Rwanda’s National Archives which provided ample proof for a plan to commit genocide against the Tutsi. Some of the documents revealed the actual preparations for such actions and others referred to lists of public figures to be killed. There was said to be “overwhelming evidence’ that the extermination of the Tutsi had been premeditated, planned months in advance and had been “concerted, systematic and methodical”. This conclusion was later accepted by judges at the ICTR, the Belgian Senate, the OAU, the ICRC, MSF, Oxfam and Amnesty International.
In the revised edition of my book A People Betrayed (Zed Books 2009), I describe in some detail how documentary evidence was also discovered in the offices of the Banque Nationale du Rwanda (BNR) in Kigali. This amounted to a paper trail of the purchases for genocide – the invoices, bank statements, arms contracts, faxes and telexes. All this showed how finance was made available to pay for genocide planning and execution.
The author of the article claims that a lack of evidence was “a constant problem for the prosecution team”. The real and urgent question he should address is not an apparent lack of evidence but what happened to the evidence that was clearly available immediately after the Genocide.
Professor Linda Melvern.