Survivors sue UN for ‘complicity’ in Rwanda genocide

Posted: October 25, 2010 in Genocide Denial
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By Karen MacGregor in Johannesburg Tuesday, 11 January 2000

The United Nations is being sued, for the first time in its history, for alleged complicity in the crime of genocide. Lawyers are instituting a case on behalf of two Rwandan women whose families died during the 1994 genocide in which 800,000, mostly Tutsi people, were slaughtered by Hutus.

The United Nations is being sued, for the first time in its history, for alleged complicity in the crime of genocide. Lawyers are instituting a case on behalf of two Rwandan women whose families died during the 1994 genocide in which 800,000, mostly Tutsi people, were slaughtered by Hutus.

The women – the widow of a former Rwandan supreme court judge and the sister of a Tutsi former cabinet minister – accuse UN soldiers who were meant to defend their families of either handing them over to their killers or running away.

They are being represented by the former South Australian crown prosecutor Michael Hourigan, who quit his job as an investigator with the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in disgust at UN inaction and barriers to his investigation, and also by the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, a fellow Australian.

Mr Hourigan, who works for a US law firm, told the Melbourne Age that genocide had been committed against Rwandans in the presence of a UN force, and that the murders in question were “caused by the cowardice, negligence and bungling of UN forces”.

This is the first time that a formal claim for reparations for such conduct has been made against the UN. Mr Hourigan would not reveal the damages sought, but said: “It is recognised in domestic and international law that when you commit a tort you compensate for the damage.”

Last month the UN released the damning findings of a three-man inquiry, headed by the former Swedish prime minister Ingvar Carlsson, that showed the organisation was guilty of a catalogue of failures during the genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days. The killings, which wiped out three-quarters of the Tutsi population, began after the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana died when his plane was shot down by unknown attackers.

The UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, has expressed regret, and admitted UN failings in responding to the genocide. The Rwandan government has called on the UN to help reconstruct the country, and genocide survivors have asked the UN to set up a fund to compensate victims.

One of the women suing the UN is Anonciata Kavaruganda, the widow of a Rwandan supreme court judge, Joseph Kavaruganda, who was killed because he sympathised with the Tutsis. She claims UN troops from Ghana, responsible for protecting her family, drank and socialised with Hutus while she and her children were being tortured. The other woman is Louise Mushikiwabo, whose brother, Lando Ndaswinga, was the only Tutsi minister in the Rwandan government. He was shot with his mother, wife and two children. She claims UN troops ran away when the killers arrived.

Mr Hourigan has given the Melbourne Age documents that place a large amount of the blame for the genocide on Mr Annan, who at the time was the head of UN peace-keeping operations. Secure cables sent to his office by the UN commander in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire of Canada, and a UN special rappateur show that Mr Annan was given extensive warning that genocide was taking place and was asked for more troops. The cables warned that UN forces would hand over people “for inevitable killing rather than use their weapons to save local people”, that ethnic cleansing was accelerating and that government radio was “exhorting the population to destroy all Tutsis”.

The documents, headed “most immediate”, were never given to the UN Security Council. Mr Hourigan has asked why testimony by the two women, which was given to the Carlsson inquiry team with copies of the Dallaire cables, was not mentioned in its report.

Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/survivors-sue-un-for-complicity-in-rwanda-genocide-727146.html

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