A lost opportunity for justice: why did the ICTR not prosecute gender propaganda?

Posted: November 23, 2011 in Uncategorized
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By Binaifer Nowrojee

72. The newspaper and the radio explicitly and repeatedly, in fact relentlessly, targeted the Tutsi population for destruction. Demonizing the Tutsi as having inherently evil qualities, equating the ethnic group with ‘the enemy’ and portraying its women as seductive enemy agents, the media called for the extermination of the Tutsi ethnic group as a response to the political threat that they associated with Tutsi ethnicity.

118. … Tutsi women, in particular, were targeted for persecution. The portrayal of the Tutsi woman as femme fatale, and the message that Tutsi women were seductive agents of the enemy was conveyed repeatedly… [and] vilified and endangered Tutsi women … defining the Tutsi woman as an enemy in this way… articulated a framework that made the sexual attack of Tutsi women a foreseeable consequence of the role attributed to them. (ICTR 2003, judgement see Chapter 25)

In December 2003, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) delivered a judgement that convicted three media executives for their role in instigating hatred and inciting genocide. It was a significant judgement in that it acknowledged the powerful role that the media and hate speech can play in inciting people to mass violence. In Rwanda, the consequences were devastating. In a three-month period, some 800,000 were killed and thousands were raped and mutilated.

Why were none of these men held responsible for their role in provoking the sexual attacks against Tutsi women? Clearly the evidence was there. In strong language, the court found that these media executives had ‘targeted’, ‘vilified’ and ‘endangered’ Tutsi women in such a way that made the sexual attacks ‘a foreseeable consequence of the role attributed to them’ (ICTR 2003, judgement summary: para. 118).

But the ICTR prosecutor never led charges to hold these three defendants responsible for their part in encouraging the brutal rapes and sexual mutilations. In fact, in arguing the case, the prosecutor paid little or no attention to the vicious gender propaganda, despite the strong evidence that continued to make its way into the courtroom and, ultimately, into the judgement.

This negligence is part of a larger failure of the Prosecutor’s Office at the ICTR to fully deliver justice to Rwanda’s victims. Given the overwhelming evidence of widespread sexual violence during the genocide, the lack of account-ability for these crimes can only be attributed to the lack of a comprehensive strategy on the part of the Prosecutor’s Office to effectively investigate and prosecute these crimes.

The legacy is that the crimes against Rwandan women are largely going unpunished by the ICTR. At the tenth anniversary of the genocide (in April 2004), the figures were dismal: of the completed cases, 90 per cent had no sexual violence convictions. In 70 per cent of those cases, the prosecutor had not even brought sexual violence charges.

The ‘Media Trial’ judgement (ICTR 2003), in particular, stands as a symbol of the neglect of the prosecutor to pursue the sexual violence crimes against women even though she possessed strong evidence, thus making the prosecutor responsible for an injustice to women in the course of administering international justice.


When Roméo Dallaire, commander of the United Nations peacekeeping force during the Rwanda genocide, testified before the ICTR, he graphically described the female corpses he had witnessed:

we could notice on many sites, sometimes very fresh – that is, I am speaking of my observers and myself – that young girls, young women, would be laid out with their dresses over their heads, the legs spread and bent. You could see what seemed to be semen drying or dried. And it all indicated to me that these women were raped. And then a variety of material were crushed or implanted into their vaginas; their breasts were cut off, and the faces were, in many cases, still the eyes were open and there was like a face that seemed horrified or something. They all laid on their backs. So there were some men that were mutilated also, their genitals and the like. A number of them were – women had their breasts cut off or their stomach open. But there was, I would say generally at the sites you could find younger girls and young women who had been raped. (ICTR-98–41-T transcript, 20 January 2004)

The following month, when Dallaire’s assistant, Major Brent Beardsley, followed as a witness in the same ‘Military I’ case, the prosecuting lawyer asked: ‘With respect to the female corpses, in particular, did you make any observations about any particular characteristics that those corpses may have had?’ Beardsley replied:

Yes, two things, really. One, when they killed women it appeared that the blows that had killed them were aimed at sexual organs, either breasts or vagina; they had been deliberately swiped or slashed in those areas. And, secondly, there was a great deal of what we came to believe was rape, where the women’s bodies or clothes would be ripped off their bodies, they would be lying back in a back position, their legs spread, especially in the case of very young girls. I’m talking girls as young as six, seven years of age, their vaginas would be split and swollen from obviously multiple gang rape, and then they would have been killed in that position. So they were laying in a position they had been raped; that’s the position they were in.

Rape was one of the hardest things to deal with in Rwanda on our part. It deeply affected every one of us. We had a habit at night of coming back to the headquarters and, after the activities had slowed down for the night, before we went to bed, sitting around talking about what happened that day, drink coffee, have a chat, and amongst all of us the hardest thing that we had to deal with was not so much the bodies of people, the murder of people – I know that can sound bad, but that wasn’t as bad to us as the rape and especially the systematic rape and gang rape of children. Massacres kill the body. Rape kills the soul. And there was a lot of rape.

It seemed that everywhere we went, from the period of 19th of April until the time we left, there was rape everywhere near these killing sites. (ICTR-98–41-T transcript, 3 February 2004)

Sexual violence, directed predominantly against Tutsi women, occurred on a massive scale during the Rwanda genocide. Although the exact number of women raped will never be known, testimonies from survivors confirm that rape was extremely widespread. Thousands of women were individually raped, gang-raped, raped with objects such as sharpened sticks or gun barrels, held in sexual slavery (either collectively by a militia group or singled out by one militia man) or sexually mutilated. These crimes were frequently part of a pattern in which Tutsi women were raped after they had witnessed the torture and killings of their relatives and the destruction of their homes. Many women were killed immediately after being raped or raped to death using sharp sticks or other objects (Nowrojee 1996).

The sexual violence was perpetrated largely by members of the Hutu militia groups known as the Interahamwe, by other civilians and by soldiers of the Rwandan armed forces (Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR)), including the Presidential Guard. Administrative, military and political leaders at the national and local levels, as well as heads of militia, directed, encouraged and allowed both the killings and sexual violence to further their political goal: the destruction of the Tutsi as a group. Sexually subjugating and mutilating Tutsi women was both a way to punish the women and to attack the ethnic group.


The outpouring of violence directed against Rwandan women on the basis of their gender and ethnicity was fuelled by the hate propaganda before and during the genocide. To this end, the media played a role in propagating and disseminating stereotypes of Tutsi women as devious seductresses who would use their beauty to undermine the Hutu community. The hate propaganda before and during the genocide demonized Tutsi women’s sexuality and, as the Media Trial judgement noted, ‘made the sexual attack of Tutsi women a foreseeable consequence’.

In the years preceding the genocide, the organizers used propaganda to heighten fear and hatred between Hutu and Tutsi. Through the written press and then through Radio-Télévision des Milles Collines (RTLM), extremists taught that the two were different peoples: the Hutu part of the larger category of ‘Bantu’ and the Tutsi part of the ‘Ethiopid’ or ‘Nilotic’ group. Such categories, once thought to be real, are now recognized to be inaccurate groupings and a legacy of nineteenth century European racism. Simplifying and distorting history, the propagandists insisted that Tutsi were foreign conquerors, who had mastered the majority Hutu through a combination of ruse and ruthlessness. According to these beliefs, the Tutsi had refused to accept the destruction of their power in the 1959 revolution and were determined to re-assert control over the Hutu.

In their drive to dominate, propagandists said, Tutsi used their women – thought to be more beautiful than Hutu women – to infiltrate Hutu ranks. Through the written press and then through RTLM radio, extremists portrayed Tutsi women as devious seductresses who would undermine the Hutu. The propaganda warned Hutu men to beware of Tutsi women. Military men were barred from marrying Tutsi women. The stereotypes also portrayed Tutsi women as arrogant and looking down on Hutu men whom they considered ugly and inferior (Chrétien et al. 1995).

Beginning in 1990, over a dozen newspapers in Kinyarwanda or French were launched, and they systematically exploited ethnic hatred (Chrétien et al. 1995: 45–7). Although these papers had a relatively small circulation, mostly in the capital, Kigali, they were often taken to the countryside by urban workers on the weekends and their message was shared widely in rural communities. In some cases, the local authorities in the rural areas were provided with copies. In addition to articles excoriating the Tutsi community, the magazines printed graphic cartoons portraying Tutsi women using their supposed sexual prowess on UN peacekeepers (Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) supporters according to the propaganda) and the moderate Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana in various sexual poses with other politicians (Chrétien et al. 1995: 336, 368).

Kangura (‘wake up’ in Kinyarwanda) magazine was the first and most virulent voice of hate. Kangura often warned the Hutu to be on guard against Tutsi women. According to Kangura, ‘[t]he Inkotanyi [a word used to refer to the RPF meaning ‘fierce fighter’ in Kinyarwanda] will not hesitate to transform their sisters, wives and mothers into pistols’ to conquer Rwanda (Anon. 1991). In the December 1990 issue of Kangura, editor Hassan Ngeze published the ‘Ten Commandments’ of the Hutu, four of which dealt specifically with women (Anon. 1990):

1. Every Hutu should know that a Tutsi woman, wherever she is, works for the interest of her Tutsi ethnic group. As a result, we shall consider a traitor any Hutu who: marries a Tutsi woman; befriends a Tutsi woman; employs a Tutsi woman as a secretary or a concubine.

2. Every Hutu should know that our Hutu daughters are more suitable and conscientious in their role as woman, wife and mother of the family. Are they not beautiful, good secretaries and more honest?

3. Hutu women, be vigilant and try to bring your husbands, brothers and sons back to reason.

7. The Rwandese Armed Forces should be exclusively Hutu. The experience of the October [1990] war has taught us a lesson. No member of the military shall marry a Tutsi.

Another issue of Kangura (1992, 29 (January): 16–17) accused Tutsi women of monopolizing positions of employment in both the public and private sectors, hiring their Tutsi sisters on the basis of their thin noses (a stereotypically ‘Tutsi feature’), thereby contributing to the unemployment rate of the Hutu, particularly Hutu women. Kangura called on Hutu to use the necessary vigilance against the Tutsi, whom it dubbed the inyenzi (cockroaches), and accomplice Hutu (ibyitso: traitors). One Hutu woman commented, ‘According to the propaganda, the Tutsi were hiding the enemy. And their beautiful women were being used to do it. So, everybody knew what that meant’ (Human Rights Watch/FIDH interview, 18 March 1996, Kigali).


When the violence began in 1994, not surprisingly, aggression against Tutsi women targeted their sexuality and was fuelled by both ethnic and gender stereotypes. Rape served to shatter the image of Tutsi women – as spies for the Tutsi community through their sexual prowess – by humiliating, degrading, and ultimately destroying them. Even Tutsi women married to Hutu men were not spared, despite the custom that a wife was protected by her husband’s lineage after marriage.

Throughout the genocide, women were consistently raped, with explicit verbal reference to their status as Tutsi women. It is clear that the rapists took up the media message that raping Tutsi women was justified because of their ethnicity and gender. Of the statements that concentrated on the Tutsi stereotype, the overwhelming majority were sexual references. Tutsi women were perceived as overly sexualized, ‘destroying the country with their seduction’; therefore, many rapists referred to their right to satisfy their sexual desire by force. Rape witnesses and victims report the following statements, among others: ‘Now we can have Tutsi women for free,’ ‘The tables have turned so now I can satisfy my sexual desires’ or ‘It is unfortunate to be killing Tutsi women since they taste better than Hutu women.’ Rapists repeatedly referred to Tutsi genitalia and the desire to see what Tutsi look or taste like. Rape survivors recount comments such as: ‘We want to see how sweet Tutsi women are,’ or ‘You Tutsi womenthink that you are too good for us,’ or ‘We want to see if a Tutsi woman is like a Hutu woman,’ or ‘If there were peace, you would never accept me,’ or ‘You Tutsi girls are too proud,’ apparently setting the stage for their degradation.

Many statements from broadcasters or in Kangura were cast in the form of a proverb. The use of proverbs suggests a concerted effort to promote slogans to motivate rapists and provide a broadly accessible terminology of justification in perpetrating sexual violence. Rape survivors and witnesses recount rapists saying: ‘Tutsi caused problems and must be exterminated with their eggs,’ ‘If you cannot catch the lice, you kill its egg’ and ‘If you set out to kill a rat, you must kill the pregnant rat.’

Statements during rape also referred to non-sexual Tutsi stereotyped characteristics. Most either labelled Tutsi women as generally arrogant or sexually arrogant in their sexual refusal of Hutu men. Rapists also repeatedly used general ethic insults, such as ‘Tutsi snake’.

Different rapists throughout the country repeatedly employed the same terminology – echoing the invectives in the media propaganda – while raping Tutsi women. The statements at the time of rape demonstrate links with the media propaganda that had advocated the same gender and ethnic stereotypes. Specific insults deployed by the radio and print media were repeated by rapists during rape. This direct correlation between media propoganda and statements by rapists demonstrates a causal link between the propaganda and the ensuing sexual violence across the country.


In December 2003, the ICTR Trial Chamber handed down a judgement in the Media Trial against two founders of RTML and the editor of Kangura newspaper. The three were found guilty of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination and persecution). RTLM founder, Ferdinand Nahimana, and former Kangura editor, Hassan Ngeze, received life sentences; Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, another RTLM founder, was sentenced to 35 years.

Despite the strong evidence in the possession of the prosecuting attorneys, the Prosecutor’s Office had not brought charges against the accused for their role in inciting sexual violence against women. Throughout the trial, strong evidence of the gender propaganda and its devastating impact on Tutsi women made its way into the courtroom, and in the judgement the court referred to it several times and noted its devastating impact on Tutsi women. Because the prosecutor had not brought sexual violence charges, the Trial Chamber was not able to convict on that basis; it could only note the many references to women that had arisen during the course of the trial.

The Trial Chamber noted that Tutsi women were particularly targeted for persecution: the presentation of Tutsi women as femmes fatales and a danger to the Hutu that was explicitly associated with sexuality. By defining the Tutsi women as enemies in this way, Kangura articulated a framework that made the sexual attack of Tutsi women a ‘foreseeable consequence’. The court found that Kangura played a substantial role in inciting Hutu hatred and violence against Tutsis, especially Tutsi women:

The newspaper and radio explicitly and repeatedly, in fact relentlessly, targeted the Tutsi population for destruction. Demonizing the Tutsi as having inherently evil qualities, equating the ethnic group with ‘the enemy’ and portraying its women as seductive enemy agents, the media called for the extermination of the Tutsi ethnic group as a response to the political threat that they associated with Tutsi ethnicity. (ICTR 2003, summary judgement: para. 72)

The Trial Chamber highlighted the Ten Commandments of the Hutu and the Kangura article entitled ‘Appeal to the conscience of the Hutu,’ which contained various myths about the Tutsi people, including that they were all bloodthirsty and that they used the two weapons of ‘money and Tutsi women’ against the Hutu. The article warned of an impending Tutsi attack and rallied its readers to commit acts of violence against Tutsis to ‘deter the enemy’.

An article published in issue 19 of Kangura described Tutsi women enemy agents who infiltrated Hutu households through marriage. The Chamber held that this passage promoted the stereotype that Tutsi women intentionally used their sexuality to lure Hutu men into liaisons to promote the ethnic dominance of the Tutsi over the Hutu.

The judgement recounts testimonies from witnesses who described the effect of the Kangura publications and the RTLM broadcasts in inciting Hutu men to attack and kill Tutsi women, including their own Tutsi wives.2 RTLM broadcasts denounced specific Tutsi women, who were later targeted for violence. Witness BI, who was specifically singled out on RTLM broadcasts that alleged her mother was a Tutsi who had married a Hutu man to make him lose his head, was then violently attacked in her home. Another broadcast about her used explicit sexual imagery and resulted in a sexually motivated attack against her (ICTR 2003: para. 442).


The Media Trial is unfortunately symptomatic of a larger neglect by the ICTR prosecutor to fully prosecute crimes of sexual violence directed at Rwandan women during the genocide. The ICTR was tasked with prosecuting serious violations of international humanitarian law committed during 1994 in Rwanda or by Rwandan citizens in neighbouring states. Rape is a prosecutable crime under international law.

Given the evidence and the elements of the crimes that the ICTR was tasked with prosecuting, virtually every defendant coming before this international court should be charged and convicted, where appropriate, for their role in perpetrating such acts against women or for command responsibility in not preventing the acts of their subordinates.

Ten years after the genocide, the ICTR had handed down 21 sentences: 18 convictions and 3 acquittals.3 This is approximately a third of those in custody. An overwhelming 90 per cent of those judgements contain no rape convictions. More disturbing, there are double the number of acquittals for rape than rape convictions.

No rape charges were even brought by the Prosecutor’s Office in 70 per cent of the adjudicated cases. In the 30 per cent that included rape charges: only 10 per cent were found guilty for their role in the widespread sexual violence. Double that number, 20 per cent, were acquitted because the court found that the prosecutor did not properly present the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.4 In real numbers, that means only two defendants have specifically been held responsible for their role in the sexual violence crimes (a third was convicted by a judgement which was reversed on appeal), despite the tens of thousands of rapes committed during the genocide.5 How can this be?

It is hard to imagine that anyone present in Rwanda during the genocide would not have been aware that tens of thousands of women were being attacked with such ferocity. Political, administrative and military leaders at the national and local levels as well as heads of militia directed, encouraged or permitted the killings and sexual violence to further their political goals: the destruction of the Tutsi as a group. They bear responsibility for these abuses.

Much has been written by legal scholars celebrating the international tribunals as an important step in ending impunity for sexual violence against women. The widespread evidence of sexual violence as a weapon of conflict in the former Yugoslavia and during the genocide in Rwanda has led to groundbreaking judgements through the UN tribunals set up to try those responsible for crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes.6 The ICTR was feted by lawyers for its first landmark judgement in the case of Akayesu that expanded international law on rape – a point of pride that ICTR officials always cite as a manifestation of their commitment to prosecute sexual violence. Yet, as groundbreaking as the Akayesu judgement is, it is increasingly standing alone as an exception – an anomaly.

If the current trend continues, when the doors of the ICTR close, its judgements will not tell the full story of what happened during the Rwanda genocide. They will not correctly reflect responsibility for the shocking rapes, sexual slavery and sexual mutilations that tens of thousands of Rwandan women suffered.

The jurisprudence as it stands now – a growing string of acquittals for rape – in fact will do the opposite. The record of this tribunal in history will not only minimize responsibility for the crimes against women, but will actually deny that these crimes occurred. A reader of the ICTR jurisprudence will be left believing mistakenly that the mass rapes had little or nothing to do with the genocidal policies of the leaders. That indeed is a serious miscarriage of justice.


There is a reason why 90 per cent of the ICTR judgements do not contain rape convictions and why the number of rape acquittals is double the number of convictions. At the ICTR, crimes of sexual violence have never been fully and consistently incorporated into the investigations and strategy of the Prosecutor’s Office. No comprehensive prosecution strategy or a precise work plan to document and bring the evidence of sex crimes into the courtroom has been pursued consistently for the past decade.

This is not to say that the Prosecutor’s Office has neglected this issue entirely – not at all. Approximately half the cases that the court will ultimately hear contain allegations of sexual violence.7 Commendable efforts have been made, but the problem is that they have not been consistently pursued. The squandered opportunities, periods of neglect and repeated mistakes have caused major setbacks to effective investigations and prosecutions of sexual violence crimes.

Ten years after the genocide, international justice for Rwandan women remains unattainable largely because of a lack of political will in the Prosecutor’s Office to comprehensively investigate or reflect the widespread sexual violence in the indictments – particularly during the tenure of Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. The sporadic attention to gender crimes over the years has implicitly sent a message to the investigations and prosecution staff that this issue is not important. The lack of sustained attention by the leadership has in turn resulted in a weak institutional capacity within the Prosecutor’s Office to effectively investigate and develop the evidence to prosecute these crimes.

Some cases have moved forward without rape charges, sometimes even when the prosecutor is in possession of strong evidence. Other cases with rape charges have come to trial without adequate attention to ensuring that the necessary evidence has been collected. In a significant proportion of the cases, rape charges have been added belatedly as amendments, as an afterthought, rather than an integral part of a prosecution strategy to acknowledge that rape was used as a form of genocidal violence. To this day, trial team leaders continue to have differing, and even contradictory, interpretations of legal responsibility for the violence against women and what legal approaches to adopt in the courtroom.

Despite the rhetoric and the repeated pronouncements expressing a commitment to prosecuting rape, the Prosecutor’s Office has never articulated and pursued a consistently defined prosecution strategy of how this crime fits into the genocidal policies of the leaders nor has it consistently employed effective investigative techniques to fully document the crimes against women. The four prosecutors that have held this office since 1994 have adopted a variety of approaches to this issue. As a result, there has never been one identified work plan pursued consistently by all investigators and trial lawyers in putting together their cases on this issue over the decade. To date, the lack of a coherent and consistent policy on sexual violence prosecutions remains a major impediment. Prosecuting trial attorneys are quick to blame their shortfalls on inadequate investigations or unwilling rape victims, rather than to reinvigorate their investigations and to find ways to make the process more enabling for rape victims to testify.


Sexual violence against women and girls in situations of armed conflict or systematic persecution constitutes a clear breach of international law.8 Perpetrators of sexual violence can be convicted for rape as a war crime, a crime against humanity or as an act of genocide or torture, if their actions meet the elements of each. Leaders in positions of responsibility who knew or should have known of such abuses and who took no steps to stop subordinates who committed sex crimes can also be held accountable.

It is therefore part of the mandate of the ICTR. It is the job of the prosecutor to effectively investigate and prosecute this crime with the same seriousness as other international crimes under his or her brief. Given what happened in Rwanda, accountability for the sexual violence should be integrated in virtually all the cases given its widespread and systematic use during the Rwanda genocide.

Although the Media Trial judgement is a lost opportunity for the ICTR prosecutor to deliver justice to women, it provides an avenue to redress the historic neglect of gender crimes. The Trial Chamber language that identifies the mass rapes as ‘a foreseeable consequence’ of the gender propaganda provides a strong basis on which the prosecutor can build to argue that the top military and government command should have had reason to know that widespread sexual violence would be directed at Tutsi women and, therefore, bear responsibility for not preventing or punishing their subordinates.


1 The report, Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence During the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath (Nowrojee 1996) published by Human Rights Watch was written by Binaifer Nowrojee, a consultant to the Women’s Rights Project. It was based on interviews and research conducted in Rwanda in March and April 1996 by Binaifer Nowrojee and Janet Fleischman. It remains one of the only dedicated studies of the impact of sexual violence against women during the Rwanda genocide. Readers are referred to it for further information and details on the issue of sexual violence during the genocide.

2 For example, witness GO described the effect of RTLM broadcasts of the Ten Commandments in inciting Hutu men to kill their Tutsi wives: ‘The goal of mentioning the ten Hutu commandments was to ensure that the population understood that all the Hutus must become united. And they must have a single fighting goal that they should aim for. And that they should have no link or no relationship between Hutus and Tutsis. And it’s for that reason that some men started killing their wives who were Tutsis. In other cases, children who, with the result of a mixed marriage, whether they had a Tutsi mother or a Hutu father, but thought that they were more Hutu than Tutsi, killed their own mothers. Just that it was explained to Hutu widows, i.e., Hutu women who had been married to Tutsi men, and whose husbands had been killed and whose children had been killed, that in fact, it was not a problem. That they had just gotten rid of enemies. And that the only persons who had any link with these people were those women. And that is indeed how things happened.’ (ICTR 2003: para. 438)

3 As of April 2004, the ICTR had indicted 82 people and made 66 arrests. Sixteen indicted suspects remained at large and six others were no longer in custody: one died before trial, two have had indictments against them withdrawn and three have been acquitted. Among the 60 in custody, 18 were convicted (12 had appeals pending), 21 accused were on trial and another 21 were in detention awaiting trial. The Appeals Chamber has so far confirmed seven convictions and one acquittal. Still in question was whether the ICTR would bring any new indictments for crimes committed by members of RPF credited with ending the genocide before taking power; and whether the ICTR will opt to transfer some of its caseload either to Rwanda or some other national jurisdiction in order to meet the 2008 completion deadline (ICTR detainees – status chart as of 15 March 2004; see < for updates.).

4 Alfred Musema (ICTR-96–13), life sentence for rape (2000), overturned on appeal and acquitted of rape (2001); Eliezer Niyitegeka (ICTR-96–14), acquitted of rape (2003); Juvénal Kajelijeli (ICTR-98–44A), acquitted of rape (2003); and Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda (ICTR-99–54), acquitted of rape (2004).

5 Jean Paul Akayesu (ICTR-96–4), 15 years for rape (1998), upheld on appeal (2001); Alfred Musema (ICTR-96–13), life sentence for rape (2000), overturned on appeal and acquitted of rape (2001); Laurent Semanza (ICTR-97–20), 7 and 10 years for two counts of rape, appeal pending.

6 In 1998, the ICTR handed down a landmark judgement in the case of Akayesu. It was the first conviction for genocide by an international court; the first time an international court punished sexual violence in an internal conflict; and the first time that rape was found to be an act of genocide to destroy a group. In 2002, the ICTY issued a significant ruling in the Foca case, convicting three men for rape, torture and enslavement as crimes against humanity. It was the first indictment by an international tribunal solely for crimes of sexual violence against women and the first conviction by the ICTY for rape and enslavement as crimes against humanity.

7 Unless of course the rape charges are withdrawn, as was done in the case of Emmanuel Ndindabahizi in 2003.

8 Rape, when committed on a mass scale, is explicitly identified as a crime against humanity. Rape and other forms of sexual violence against civilians are a violation of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols (for both international and internal conflicts). Sexual violence can be a crime under the Genocide Convention (UN 1951) if committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group through killing or serious bodily harm. Rape can also be a form of torture.


Anonymous. 1991. Kangura, 19 (July). (Quoted in Chrétien et al. 1995: 161).

Chrétien, J.P., J.F. Dupaquier and M. Kabanda. 1995. Rwanda: les médias du génocide. Karthala, Paris, France. 397 pp.

ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda). 2003. Judgement and sentence. The Prosecutor v. Ferdinand Nahimana, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza and Hassan Ngeze. Case no. ICTR-99–52-T: Arusha, Tanzania, 3 December.

——. 2004. Examination-in-Chief of General Roméo Dallaire, former force commander, U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). Transcript. In The Prosecutor v. Bagasora, Kabiligi, Ntabakuze, Nsengiyumva. Case no. ICTR-98–41-T.

Nowrojee, B. 1996. Shattered Lives: Sexual Violence During the Rwandan Genocide and its Aftermath. Human Rights Watch, New York, NY, USA.

UN (United Nations). 1951. Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. Adopted by Resolution 260 (III) of the UN General Assembly, 9 December. 1948. UN Treaty Series no. 1021, vol. 78: 277. Available at <www.preventgenocide.org/law/convention/text.htm> (accessed 6 September 2005).

Source: http://web.idrc.ca/en/ev-108296-201-1-DO_TOPIC.html

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