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Court of Remorse

Inside the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Thierry Cruvellier

Publication Year: 2010

When genocidal violence gripped Rwanda in 1994, the international community recoiled, hastily withdrawing its peacekeepers. Late that year, in an effort to redeem itself, the United Nations Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to seek accountability for some of the worst atrocities since World War II: the genocide suffered by the Tutsi and crimes against humanity suffered by the Hutu. But faced with competing claims, the prosecution focused exclusively on the crimes of Hutu extremists. No charges would be brought against the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, which ultimately won control of the country. The UN, as if racked by guilt for its past inaction, gave in to pressure by Rwanda’s new leadership. With the Hutu effectively silenced, and the RPF constantly reminding the international community of its failure to protect the Tutsi during the war, the Tribunal pursued an unusual form of one-sided justice, born out of contrition.  
    Fascinated by the Tribunal’s rich complexities, journalist Thierry Cruvellier came back day after day to watch the proceedings, spending more time there than any other outside observer. Gradually he gained the confidence of the victims, defendants, lawyers, and judges. Drawing on interviews with these protagonists and his close observations of their interactions, Cruvellier takes readers inside the courtroom to witness the motivations, mechanisms, and manipulations of justice as it unfolded on the stage of high-stakes, global politics. It is this ground-level view that makes his account so valuable—and so absorbing. A must-read for those who want to understand the dynamics of international criminal tribunals, Court of Remorse reveals both the possibilities and the challenges of prosecuting human rights violations.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Geographic Landmarks

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pp. viii-x

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Historical Reference Points

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pp. xi-xiv

In 1896, Rwanda, a country where Hutus and Tutsis had lived for several centuries, became a German protectorate and was incorporated into the German empire. In 1919 the World War I victors gave this territory to Belgium. The colonial power based its authority on the royal Tutsi government and reinforced the Tutsi monopoly in administrative and political spheres. In ...

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pp. 3-8

Standing over six feet five inches tall, Laïty Kama had a bird’s-eye view of the world, yet seemed to falter a little as he looked down over it. In court, he would sometimes rest his head on his right hand, so long and slender that it covered his entire forehead. In this weary posture, the Senegalese judge would mumble or stiffen his face in a gloomy, sullen pout. When he did crack a smile, as wide as an ocean sky, his small round eyes ...

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1. The Addis Ababa Departure Lounge

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pp. 9-14

Little is known about the life Froduald Karamira led in Bombay, India, and even less about his deportation from the country on June 4, 1996. Rwandan intelligence agents acted efficiently and discretely, leaving no trace behind. The work of true professionals. The operation was conducted in utmost secrecy. It was more like a covert operation to extract a secret agent than the mere deportation of a criminal. When Karamira ...

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2. The Eagle Eye

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pp. 15-19

Richard Goldstone had to be replaced. After three years of dealing with all the start-up problems as the first prosecutor of the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, he was stepping down. Names of candidates began to circulate. Among them was Louise Arbour, a forty-eight-year-old judge in Ottawa. Arbour was a discreet person ...

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3. At the First Judgment

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pp. 20-31

Suddenly, in a matter of days, the judicial machine finally creaked into motion. Jean-Paul Akayesu’s trial had started fourteen months earlier, and, as Judge Laïty Kama, president of the tribunal, had persuaded himself, “a trial is conducted in order to be concluded. ”Twenty-eight witnesses came to testify against the former bourgmestre of Taba, ...

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4. Lines of Defense

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pp. 32-37

Besides convicting the bourgmestre of Taba, the Akayesu judgment also removed a fundamental obstacle by providing clear and definitive legal recognition of the crime committed against the Tutsis in Rwanda. It constituted a judicial record of the 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis, giving the “crime of all crimes” against this segment of...

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5. The Fool’s Game

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pp. 38-48

Jean Kambanda was thirty-eight years old when a military escort showed up at his house in the Kacyiru neighborhood on April 8, 1994. Bodies already littered the streets of Kigali, and fighting was again raging between the government forces and the RPF rebels. His hour had come. The soldiers had come looking for him to head a so-called interim ...

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6. Counting Up the Interahamwe

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pp. 49-57

Jean Kambanda’s intuition was not always wrong. He was not mistaken, for example, about the role that a certain Dieudonné Niyitegeka played in the July 1997 roundup that led to the arrest of the former prime minister and several other Rwandan leaders in Kenya. Indeed, this man, he wrote, “purportedly served as an informant to identify the ...

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7. The White Man’s Grave

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pp. 58-73

On a December day in Kigali in 1993, as he was walking downtown, Georges Ruggiu chanced to encounter the presidential motorcade. Being a respectful man and an ardent admirer of the Rwandan president, he saluted. The car stopped, and Georges Ruggiu was invited to step into the vehicle carrying President Juv

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8. A Little Murder among Friends

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pp. 74-77

The day of his public confession, Georges Ruggiu made a promise to the victims: “I beg them to understand that I am deeply sorry for what happened. There is nothing else I can do but testify, and I am ready to do so in order to make amends.” The trial in which his testimony was so highly anticipated was the one that he would have been part of ...

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9. Opening Up Kibuye

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pp. 78-82

Kibuye is perhaps the most beautiful region in Rwanda. It is also the region where the annihilation of the Tutsis continued the longest, and was the most effective. Before the genocide, it was the most economically neglected prefecture and the only one whose administrative seat was not connected to Kigali by a paved road. After the holocaust, it...

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10. Be like the Arab: (Reason to Doubt)

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pp. 83-101

Atrial, especially one that lasts as long as those before the UN tribunals, can be a numbing process. To guarantee their impartiality, the proceedings must take place under the anesthesia of rules of procedure and legal decorum. Form and codes are all-important. The vocabulary is abstruse and disembodied. The dynamics of the legal battle...

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11. Closing Up Shop

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pp. 102-114

Louise Arbour had never been so well received in Rwanda. In1997 the chief prosecutor had been booed at in the streets of Kigali. Survivors accused her of not wanting to prosecute the perpetrators of the genocide, and the Rwandan government called for her resignation. But in this first week of August 1999, that was all just a bad, distant memory. This ...

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12. A Mayor in Turmoil: (The Doubt in Reason)

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pp. 115-130

When prepared with a modicum of rigor, an initial appearance is a simple and predictable judicial event. If neglected, it can lead to a disaster, as in the Barayagwiza case, and speak volumes about the court’s mindset. To complete this procedure within a short period of time, as required by law, the UN tribunal often uses a lawyer, called a ...

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13. The Principle of Ignorance

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pp. 131-135

The universalist ideal was a powerful, and no doubt sincere,force behind the establishment first of the international tribunals in The Hague and Arusha and later the ICC. Since the nature of these crimes obligates the universal human community, it seemed natural that anyone who is a member of this community, regardless of origin, would be ...

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14. The Betrayal of the “Moderates”

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pp. 136-153

There was no Hitler, no Pol Pot, no Stalin to imprint the Rwandan genocide into collective memory. Yet, if the two international courts established by the UN at the beginning of the 1990s were to be symbolically identified with their primary suspect, then just as the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was ultimately embodied in the person of ...

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15. Like a Flight of Termites

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pp. 154-163

The Rwandan authorities’ reaction to the acquittal of Ignace Bagilishema consisted in a few frowns and some symbolic boasting, evidence of the fact that in their eyes, the trial of Mabanza’s former bourgmestre held little importance. As seen in the Barayagwiza case, Rwanda’s government knows how to flex its muscles when it feels its interests ...

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16. Loser’s Justice

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pp. 164-167

Everyone who supported the creation of the tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and later the ICC dreaded the thought of these courts giving the appearance of victor’s justice. The Nuremberg military tribunal created just after World War II hung like a specter over the proceedings. To the extent that it had succeeded in replacing vengeance ...

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17. Giving and Taking Back

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pp. 168-174

On December 31, 2004, the ICTR prosecutor officially closed the genocide investigations. The decision was not his. It was imposed on him by the countries that had created the court and were financially supporting it. According to President Pillay’s projections in 2001, if Carla del Ponte had been given free rein to implement her work plan, ...

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pp. 175-176

This book was mainly inspired by my coverage of the ICTR from May 1997 to October 2002 in Arusha. It is also the product of the work of those with whom I shared this task. I first wish to thank my colleagues and friends Jean Chichizola, Arnaud Grellier, Franck Petit, and Lars Waldorf, with whom I had the great privilege of working and who, inadvertently, allowed me ...


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pp. 177-184


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pp. 185-188

E-ISBN-13: 9780299236731
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299236748

Page Count: 188
Publication Year: 2010

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Subject Headings

  • International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
  • Rwanda -- History -- Civil War, 1990-1993 -- Atrocities.
  • Rwanda -- History -- Civil War, 1994 -- Atrocities.
  • Trials (Crimes against humanity) -- Rwanda.
  • War crime trials -- Rwanda.
  • Genocide -- Rwanda.
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