The U.N. Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Concludes its First Case: A Monumental Step Towards Truth

by Paul J. Magnarella

Introduction

Over the past year, the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has made significant progress in apprehending and prosecuting high ranking persons responsible for the 1994 genocide of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda (1). The first case to be concluded at the ICTR, the case against Rwandan ex-premier Jean Kambanda, is extremely important for learning the truth about what happened in Rwanda during those fateful 100 days in 1994. Kambanda’s extensive admissions of guilt should dispel forever any doubts about the occurrence of an intentionally orchestrated genocide in Rwanda. Kambanda’s confession, and his willingness to offer testimony in other cases, is significant because it will probably influence the pleas of the other thirty Rwandan defendants in ICTR custody.

Kambanda is the first person in history to accept responsibility for genocide before an international court. He did so fifty years after the UN adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948). His case is of monumental significance not only to Rwandans, but to all those concerned with this most dreadful of crimes.

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Paul J. Magnarella is a Professor of Anthropology and Legal Studies, at the University of Florida. He currently serves a Special Counsel to the Association of Third World Studies.