GASABO - The Justice sector was last Friday commended for its achievements by an eminent Judge and scholar, Justice Richard Goldstone.
Addressing the justice sector fraternity at the Supreme Court’s main hall, the Judge’s discussion: “The role of justice in the aftermath of massive human rights violations”, which also tackled the seemingly contentious issue of universal jurisdiction.
“The topic is timely and we have, perhaps, the best person to talk about it with us here,” said Sam Rugege, the Vice President of the Supreme Court, in his introductory remarks.
Goldstone commended the tremendous changes that have taken place in the country since the 1994 Rwanda Genocide and observed that it would take generations to rise above.
“Justice can help a society recover from massive human rights violations,” said Goldstone.
He, however, stressed that justice was simply one of the essential tools and that on its own could not provide “a magic formula.”
“Unfortunately, too much is expected from justice; it is only one tool amongst many,” he said.
Goldstone also lauded government’s help and cooperation during his earlier visits.
“I am happy to say that from the first minute I arrived [first week of December 1994], I have received cooperation, friendship and support from the government of Rwanda,” he said.
“I have had fourteen visits to Rwanda and I remember them all with happy memories of friendship and cooperation,” Goldstone said.
From 1994 to 1996, Goldstone served as the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
On the ICTR, he pointed out that there have been both “successes and downsides.”
Operating in other countries other than where crimes have been committed was one significant downside, he stressed.
Responding to questions from the audience, Goldstone, carefully choosing his words, said that it would be a tragedy if the remaining cases were not transferred to Rwanda.
“It would be nothing short of a tragedy if misunderstandings are not fixed,” he underscored, adding, “It is my great hope and expectation that security for the lawyers should not be any problem at all.”
Goldstone also pointed out that some successes might not be obvious today, but putting an end to denials to the Genocide was one significant success.
“I had some European and North American countries telling me not to use the ‘G’ word. This was no Genocide… this was spontaneous tribalism…this is what happens in Africa,” he recalled.
He underscored that it was important that “we had that history.”
“It will go down in history as a first systematic record of criminal justice,” he said of the tribunal’s work, adding, “Acknowledgement of the historical record is important for the survivors.”
The Justice Minister and Attorney General, Tharcise Karugarama pointed out that the security excuse was a “misplaced fear”.
“Why is there fear that a judge or defence lawyer that comes to Rwanda would be harmed whereas the perpetrators walk freely on the streets?” he posed.
He also vowed on the country’s support to the application of the principle of universal jurisdiction.
“What is worrying us is the abuse of this notion which would create legal anarchy in international law,” he explained.
Karugarama requested Goldstone to take time and carefully peruse through the Spanish and French judge indictments of top government officials and give his own impartial assessment.
“Kindly take time, read through and give us your professional assessment as someone neutral,” he urged, saying that nobody has been able to do it.
Goldstone is in the country to help with the ongoing capacity building efforts in the justice sector among other things.