The recent decision by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to turn down promise request to send Genocide suspect Yussuf Munyakazi to Rwanda for trial didn’t take many by surprise.
Though I am not a sceptic myself, a number of contradictions in decisions taken by the court raise a lot of scepticism.
The Prosecutor of the tribunal had earlier requested the man to be taken to his country for trial, but all of a sudden the idea was changed. This was after some members of the court refused to buy the idea.
A number of questions related to the court’s decisions therefore, remain unanswered; why is ICTR interested in trying the ‘suspects’? Why do the suspects themselves fear to be tried in Rwanda? And who is behind this game of hide and seek?
All these questions and many others can be answered together. The international community and ICTR as a matter of fact don’t care about Rwanda’s efforts to build a peaceful and harmonious society.
Rwandans still remember with concern, the role the international community played in destroying this country. It is lamentable therefore that the very community, which did little to help in the aftermath of the genocide, is behaving this way.
Trying planners of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda has a very important implication as far as efforts of unity and reconciliation process are concerned.
If genocide perpetrators like the ones ICTR is ‘craving’ to try were brought to Rwanda for trial, then they would help us in our efforts to restore unity in the country. The restorative justice they would be given, would certainly pave way for reconciliation.
In Rwanda, perpetrators of the genocide come face to face with the people they tortured, maimed, etcetera, and the scenario gives a simultaneous positive impact:
The victims feel that justice is done as they see the perpetrators being punished and at the same time the accused may show some signs of remorse. It is this kind of environment based on the foundation of restorative justice, which builds unity and peace in a society.
That is why Rwanda wants to try the perpetrators of genocide who are in ICTR and other foreign countries. Trying them in Rwanda would help the society to internalise the foundational factors that pushed the suspects to commit such abominable acts. And this is a very important factor in terms of reconciliation.
It is against this background therefore, that I see the international community and ICTR who are refusing to send the suspects to be tried in their country, as doing Rwanda a great disservice. Rwanda has got to help its people move forward despite the evils it suffered. It is in this line that it has been giving the aftermath of the genocide a most fundamental approach.
Unfortunately ICTR and other foreign nations remain ignorant that what happened in 1994, was not a narrative but a real human event that requires a clear headed approach without being overly sentimental or emotional. ICTR cannot cater for this and that is why we request it to re-consider its decision and send the suspects to Rwanda.
All foreign courts can at their best, only give justice to the victims, survivors and the suspects. But this is not enough; justice is supposed to go beyond the three and be felt by the whole Rwandan society.
Nonetheless, efforts done by some foreign countries and ICTR cannot be ignored. They have done a great job in tracking and trying some international fugitives. They nevertheless, have to go a mile further and address punishment in its proper context.
What I am trying to put forward is making punishment meaningful. For punishment to be justified, it must have objectives that primarily include restoring society’s morals. Punishment should not be given for the sake of it, as ICTR would want us to believe. We have to foresee its end results or effects.
Foreign courts offer punishment that is too ‘remote’ to be felt by the Rwandan people. It therefore ignores the most basic principle of punishment.
The Rwandan courts and Gacaca courts in particular, do the reverse. True stories are told, victims and offenders come together to publicly mend their differences. Rwanda thus, properly uses the idea of punishment to transform the minds of the people who committed the crimes so that they may live together with their victims in harmony.
When ICTR and some other countries insist on trying the 1994 genocide criminals, they deny Rwanda this noble move.
But why should they do it? That is why I remain sceptical.