Threats to International Peace and Security: Prevention and Fight Against Genocide
Expected Council Action
In April, the Council will be briefed on the prevention of and fight against genocide to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Possible briefers are Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon or Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson. In addition, the Council may adopt a resolution on the prevention of genocide.
The permanent representatives of the Council were also personally invited to attend a commemoration ceremony in Kigali in April.
Less than a year after the signing of the Arusha Accords between then-President Juvenal Habyarimana and the rebel exile-based Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) leader Paul Kagame, violence erupted following the assassination of Habyarimana when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on 6 April 1994. With the assistance of the Interahamwe militias, Habyarimana regime Hutu hardliners, who all along had been determined never to implement the Arusha Accords, orchestrated the mass slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus. By the time the RPF reached Kigali on 4 July, an estimated 800,000 people had been slaughtered. Thereafter, mass numbers of Hutus fled the country as acts of retribution by the Tutsi forces were taking place.
Although it failed to prevent or halt the atrocities, the Council did take action to establish an international criminal tribunal to hold accountable those responsible for heinous crimes committed in Rwanda. Acting on a recommendation from the Secretary-General, in resolution 935, adopted on 1 July 1994, the Council requested that the Secretary-General establish a Commission of Experts to obtain information regarding grave violations of international law in Rwanda. In its 10 October 1994 report, the Commission concluded that genocide was allegedly committed against the Tutsi population but as both sides also committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, it also recommended expanding the jurisdiction of a prospective international tribunal to include mass atrocities committed by the RPF as it advanced on the ground (S/1994/1125). (For more on this, see our Cross-Cutting Report of 18 January 2013 on The Rule of Law: The Security Council and Accountability.)
In adopting resolution 955 on 8 November 1994, the Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), with its statute annexed to the resolution. The ICTR was to adjudicate crimes committed in Rwanda and by Rwandan citizens in the territory of neighbouring states between 1 January and 31 December 1994. The statute did not specify crimes committed by any specific ethnic group against the other.
The first judgment of the ICTR was delivered on 2 September 1998 in the case of the Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu. It concluded that “the massacres which occurred in Rwanda in 1994 had a specific objective, namely the extermination of the Tutsi, who were targeted especially because of their Tutsi origin.… Consequently, the Chamber concludes from all the foregoing that genocide was, indeed, committed in Rwanda in 1994 against the Tutsi as a group”.
Notwithstanding these conclusions, since first addressing this issue, Council resolutions have referred to the genocide as the “genocide in Rwanda”.
Key Recent Developments
During the negotiations on resolution 2136, adopted on 30 January 2014, Rwanda suggested language in a paragraph relating to the operations of the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) that the Hutu rebel group includes perpetrators of “the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda”. The US at one point suggested adding language on other victims, and the resolution as adopted referred to the “perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, during which Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed”.
The language adopted was a marked change from the ”genocide in Rwanda” language used by the Council over the last two decades. Since then, Rwanda has been trying to mainstream the new language into other Council decisions, including the MONUSCO resolution on 28 March and its draft resolution on the commemoration of the genocide. The draft stresses the importance of the prevention of genocide, the responsibility to protect and justice mechanisms such as the ICTR. It also refers twice to the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi—with reference to the Akayesu judgment—and the killing of “Hutu and others who opposed the genocide”. At press time, negotiations on the draft resolution were to commence in early April.
A key issue for Council members is to carefully consider the question of how to frame the genocide that took place in Rwanda.
Another issue is whether to include language on the ICC in the resolution.
Options for the Council include:
- adopting a resolution with reference to the “genocide in Rwanda” as is accepted UN practice;
- adopting a resolution with reference to the genocide committed against the Tutsis in Rwanda and also mentioning other casualties, possibly along the lines of the language in resolution 2136;
- adopting a resolution with compromise language that acknowledges the genocide against the Tutsis while also highlighting other atrocities committed during the conflict; or
- taking no action at this time.
Council and Wider Dynamics
During the negotiations over resolution 2136, Council members were mostly focused on the renewal of the Democratic Republic of the Congo sanctions regime and other substantive points of contention with Rwanda and less focused on the new refined language adopted to reference the Rwandan genocide. At this point, however, Council members are more aware of the issue, particularly in light of a standalone draft resolution on the genocide.
Several Council members are weary of changing the general language on the “genocide in Rwanda” as has been UN practice. They are of the position that the current language is inclusive of the atrocities committed in Rwanda during that conflict, does not lessen the deplorable actions of all of the perpetrators of atrocities against both Hutu and Tutsi and protects the interests of and memory about all victims of the conflict. They also fear that this language on genocide may create perceptions diminishing other acts of violence committed against Hutus during and subsequent to the genocide and goes against reconciliation between the communities. Furthermore, some see the language proposed by Rwanda as part of a wider political agenda related to its involvement in the eastern DRC, where the FDLR operates, and its destabilising effect on the DRC.
Rwanda, on the other hand, sees the necessity of pointing out that the genocide was committed against Tutsis as a way to set the historical record straight, as it views the language used to date as general and inaccurate. It also sees such language as a tool against those who claim that genocide against the Tutsis, as a group, did not take place. It argues that those who hold that position at times base their argument on UN documents that do not specify that Tutsis were targeted as such. Rwanda will rely on the recently agreed language in resolution 2136 as a precedent.
Another point of contention is the lack of reference to the ICC in the draft resolution. Several Council members will push to include language on the ICC in a resolution that focuses on justice and atrocity-prevention. A possible solution would be to include previously agreed language on the ICC.
UN Documents on the Prevention of Genocide
|Security Council Resolutions|
|30 January 2014 S/RES/2136||This resolution renewed the sanctions regime and the mandate of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.|
|8 November 1994 S/RES/955||This resolution established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.|
|1 October 1994 S/1994/1125||This was a report of the Commission of Experts on crimes committed in Rwanda.|
Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu, Judgment of 2 September 1998 (Case No. ICTR-96-4-T).