HRW engaging in bizarre concept of human rights advocacy

Editor,This is in reaction to Dr. Diogene Bideri’s opinion piece, “ICTR used meaningless formula to acquit the worst genocidaires”, published in The New Times, March  21.

Editor,

This is in reaction to Dr. Diogene Bideri’s opinion piece, “ICTR used meaningless formula to acquit the worst genocidaires”, published in The New Times, March  21.

We need more of these kinds of analysis to highlight the glaring holes in the logic of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) judges whose current bizarre decisions undercut the very reason for the tribunal’s own establishment.

It would also be very useful to underline the role of powerful Western nongovernmental organisations, especially the likes of Human Rights Watch (HRW), in these grotesque decisions. As a lecturer in international politics at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Phil Clark, recently recalled in a Twitter exchange with former HRW staffer Timothy Longman, the UK High Court’s 2009 verdict to block the extradition of four Genocide suspects, was based mainly on a HRW brief to the judges.

The exchange was in the context of comments regarding some recent highly seminal analytical work by a retired US diplomat, Richard Johnson, “The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda”, in which he slams HRW’s anti-Rwanda and pro-genocidaires political advocacy masquerading as human rights advocacy.

Mr. Longman criticises this analysis, claiming it is a shameful tirade against HRW. In the usual HRW tradition, Mr. Longman fails to disclose his HRW links, including the fact that he co-authored a 2004 essay with the late Alison Des Forges, then HRW chief Rwanda researcher, in which they reduced justice for the victims and survivors of the Genocide against Rwanda’s Tutsi to merely “an important step in the social (omitting political) reconstruction of Rwanda”.

That essay also promoted impunity, advancing their view that trials were not a panacea. In particular, they claimed that the Rwandan government, elected in 2003, lacked legitimacy because the MDR party had been banned, while the Gacaca court system was one-sided in focusing on the Genocide and not on lesser RPF alleged crimes.

In HRW’s view, it was far better to ignore the survivors’ thirst for justice. Should we, therefore, be surprised that given the self-confessed strong association of Judge Theodor Meron, the President of the ICTR Appeals Chamber, we are seeing a flood of reversals of earlier convictions or heavy reductions of sentences of Rwandese genocidaires?

A very bizarre concept of human rights advocacy indeed.


Mwene Kalinda, Kigali

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