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‘Legacy Talk’ at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Published on May 2, 2016        Author: 

As mentioned in Marko Milanovic’s recent post, the American Journal of International Law will soon publish a Symposium at the occasion of the closure of the ad hoc tribunals. Marko’s article considers the impact of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). We were asked to reflect upon the legacy and impact of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). An advance (original and longer) version is available here.

Before turning to the ICTR’s potential legacies, our article explores the ways in which the concept of “legacy” can be understood in the context of an international criminal tribunal. Although rarely defined and even less frequently theorised, the term has recently been much in vogue in international criminal law, so much so that Viviane Dittrich has observed a “legacy turn” within the field.  Even before it closed down, the ICTR dedicated human resources, a website and a video to publicise its legacy.

As the ICTR’s legacy website and video demonstrate, the Tribunal has made claims about its legacy in no uncertain terms. For instance, the video lists the Tribunal’s monumental contributions to international criminal law, but it also describes a much broader impact: “a record of legal reform in Rwanda, and outreach, education, legal training, and healing.” The narrator claims, “today in Rwanda, it’s safe to listen to the radio again: the sound is of a nation rebuilding.” Yet the film’s final words are not about Rwanda, but affirm “a world pushing forward despite great imperfection, each day closer to a time when international law offers justice to all people, everywhere.”

This rhetoric about one’s own legacy exemplifies what we call ‘legacy talk’. Unlike legacy planning, which concerns ensuring that there will be something to leave behind, legacy talk attempts to consolidate a set of interpretations about what is left. Read the rest of this entry…

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Paul Kagame and Rwanda’s Faux Democracy

Published on August 8, 2010        Author: 

Ruth Wedgwood is Edward B. Burling Professor of International Law and Diplomacy; and Director of the International Law and Organizations Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, John Hopkins University, Washington DC. She is also a  visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the UN Human Rights Committee.

If you’re a betting person, here’s a safe bet: On August 9, the balloting in the east African state of Rwanda will give world-famous military leader Paul Kagame yet another seven-year term as president. The astonishing margin of victory will impress even the modern grand viziers of Central Asia. The outcome is quite easy to predict, when no other candidates are allowed to campaign.

Given this and much else besides, it’s time Washington began to create some distance from a man who has earned his reputation as a de facto despot who terrorizes critics and does not shrink from political violence.

Kagame revels in his fame as the strategist who led a Tutsi invasion force from Uganda in 1994, pushing back the Hutu army and Hutu militia, though not before they perpetrated a shocking genocidal slaughter of hundreds of thousands of the country’s Tutsi minority, as well as moderate Hutu. Washington, reeling from Somalia and fearing another Black Hawk Down, refused to intervene. Madeline Albright was directed to inform the U.N. Security Council that, no, we would not reconstitute the U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda, and, further, the United States would veto any resolution that authorized other countries to do so. It was the season of peacekeeping misadventures, and the Clinton White House decided, as one former National Security Council official recalls, that it could not afford to intervene both in Haiti and Rwanda. Presidential Decision Directive 25, drafted by Richard Clarke as a white paper for peacekeeping, morphed into an excuse to “just say no.”

For the last 15 years, Kagame has at every turn invoked these memories to shoehorn the West into a nearly reflexive support for his government. Even Bill Clinton came back to apologize. Kagame has become a fixture at the United Nations in New York, regaling delegations in the Indonesian Lounge, extolling his vision of benevolent autocracy, claiming to admire Singapore as his model for economic growth and insisting that he and only he can keep Rwanda’s torn society knitted together.

In truth, the Rwandan leader presides over nothing more than hollow democracy. He has attacked and exiled any and all viable political opponents. The local press, as well as international journalists, have been bludgeoned and harassed. The regime uses the Stalinist crime of “divisionism” as a pretext to silence and prosecute any critic who dares question its policies or the state sanctioned version of the 1994 conflict. Read the rest of this entry…

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Filed under: EJIL Analysis, Rwanda
 

Prosecution of Senior Rwandan Government Official in France: More on Immunity

Published on December 24, 2008        Author: 

French authorities have announced this week (see here) that a senior Rwandan official, Rose Kabuye, who is curently detained in France, will be allowed to travel to Rwanda for the Christmas holidays. Rose Kabuye was at the time of her arrest the Chief of Protocol to current Rwandan President Paul Kagame. She is accused (see here), under French Anti-Terrorism laws, of complicity to murder in connection with the killing in 1994 of then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana. It was, of course, that murder which led to the Rwanda Genocide.  She was arrested in November at Frankfurt Airport (Germany) under an arrest warrant issued by French officials. She was subsequently transferred to France. Her arrest has worsened the already bad relations between Rwanda and France. They have also led to a diplomatic row between Rwanda and Germany and Rwanda has expelled the German Ambassador in the country.

Rose Kabuye’s arrest, detention and prosecution raises questions regarding the immunity of foreign officials from criminal prosecution in foreign domestic courts. The particular question at issue in the Kabuye case is: which State officials are entitled to personal immunity? Was it lawful for France to issue an arrest warrant for a senior Rwandan official and was it lawful for German authorities to execute that warrant? Or was (is) Rose Kabuye within that category of officials who are entitled to personal immunity from the jurisdiction of foreign States for so long as they serve in their official position?  Read the rest of this entry…

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