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Human Rights Quarterly 24.4 (2002) 1058-1066

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Book Review

International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda Reports of Orders, Documents and Judgements 1995-1997

International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda Reports of Orders, Documents and Judgements 1995-1997, by Eric David, Pierre Klein, & Anne-Marie Law Rosa (Bruylant, Belgium 2000) 834 pp.

Observers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) will not be surprised that this slow and sedentary tribunal has only now issued the first in an anticipated series of compilations of orders, documents, and judgments. This initial volume spans the period between 1993 and 1997 and has been published by the Free University of Brussels under the general editorship of Professor Eric David, Director of the Center for International Law at the Free University of Brussels, Associate Professor Pierre Klein, and Anne-Marie La Rosa, Senior Legal Officer in the Legal Counsel Office of the International Legal Office. The collection contains available pre-trial motions, documents, and rulings of the first twenty-eight prosecutions filed before the ICTR. Several of the documents have not yet been translated and only appear in French. Readers should note that the materials generally are fairly technical and would be of interest to the specialist as opposed to the general researcher.

The introductory essay penned by Professor David characterizes Rwanda as the third genocide of the twentieth century which is distinguished by its public notoriety, rapidity and by the rudimentary nature of the weaponry and instruments of destruction. He notes that this sadistic slaughter took place in the presence of international peacekeeping forces charged with providing safety and security and in the full glare of the global media. Yet, David observes that the leading world leaders and regimes displayed a "spineless" lack of "common decency" which contributed to the commission of an "unspeakable" catalogue of crimes. He ruefully observes that the second millennium of the "so-called Christian era" concluded with a "unique demonstration of selfishness and global inhumanity." David nevertheless concludes that while the prosecutions before the ICTR may inadequately serve the interests of reparation and deterrence the trials of the perpetrators of these unspeakable horrors will further the interests of catharsis, memory, the imparting of values, as well as the development of international humanitarian law. A brief review of the Rwandan conflict might provide useful background for evaluating the work of the ICTR. This description is heavily drawn from the writings of Philip Gourvevitch.

Conventional wisdom describes Rwanda as having been settled by cave-dwelling pygmies (Twa) who today constitute a small portion of the indigenous population. This was followed by the influx of the Hutus, a Bantu people, and later by the Tutsi, a Nilotic group. The latter two peoples gradually mixed and melded and grew to share common language, mores, and religion; they intermingled and inter-married and came to cohabit in hearth and home. Still, there is no denying that Rwanda was a stratified society which was structured on the basis of ethnicity, occupation, and wealth. The Tutsi were custodians of cattle and capital; the Hutus toiled and tilled the land and were responsible for most of the manual labor. This soon translated into the regal reign of Tutsi chiefs and administrators. These ethnic designations, however, were fluid and imprecise. Individuals might assume the favored Tutsi status as a result of marriage, military prowess, industry, or influence. There was a stereotypical portrait which painted the Tutsi as lithe and [End Page 1058] long-limbed with thin lips and high cheek-bones. This contrasted with the construction of the Hutus as squat and rotund with dark complexions and thick lips. These differing descriptions found a fertile field in the writings of European racialist John Hanning Speke who in 1863 crossed Rwanda on his trek across Africa. Speke transformed his racist fantasies into the scientific assertion that the Tutsi were the central custodians of culture. Their alleged noble carriage and long and lanky physique was explained by the fact that they were the scions of a caucasian tribe of Ethiopian origin which was descended from...


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