The trials of Rwanda

Filip Reyntjens, a very expert scholar of international law who is also an expert on Rwandan history, has now sent a letter to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda saying he will suspend all cooperation with the court’s Office of the Prosecutor until it takes steps to indict members of the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) who are accused of human rights abuses.
Reyntjens, who teaches at the University of Antwerp, played an important role in the prosecution’s work as recently as last September when he testified in the court against Theoneste Bagosora, accused of being the most important mastermind behind the nationwide organization of the 1994 genocide. (Reyntjens did, however, say in that tesgimony that Bagosora’s co-accused, Gratien Kabiligi, had played no part in organizing the killings.)
According to the Fondation Hirondelle report linked to above, Reyntjens sent a letter to ICTR Chief prosecutor Hassan Jallow in which he wrote that,

    failure by the ICTR to prosecute alleged perpetrators of the abuses was “meting out victor’s justice” and risked becoming “part of the problem and not the solution”.
    He said that it was his knowledge that the “special investigative team” of the ICTR had gathered “compelling evidence on a number of massacres committed by the RPF in 1994”.
    “These crimes fall squarely within the mandate of the ICTR, they are well documented, testimonial and material proof is available, and the identity of RPF suspects is known”, he wrote.
    He added that that in not pursuing the RPF, the tribunal “fails to meet another stated objective, namely to ‘contribute to the process of national reconciliation and the restoration and maintenance of peace’.”

    “While I remain committed to the cause which is at the heart of the mandate of the ICTR, on ethical grounds I cannot any longer be involved in this process. I shall, therefore, not be able to co-operate with the OTP unless and until the first RPF suspect is indicted”, threatened the lawyer-cum-historian.

Reyntjens was one of the people I interviewed in connection with my Violence and its Legacies project, back in 2001. (You can read some excerpts from our conversation here.)
His reference to “contributing to national reconciliation” comes from the November 1994 Security Council resolution that established the ICTR.
I’ve been trying to get another bearing on the extent to which the ICTR has succeeded in that regard by doing more reading in the Stover and Weinstein book, “My neighbor, my enemy” that I wrote briefly about here on Sunday.
Though much of the book has been really interesting and helpful, I’ve been a little disappointed in Ch.10, which presents the results of a 2,000-respondent opinion survey carried out in four different areas of Rwanda in February 2002 in order to describe “Attitudes toward accountability and reconciliation in Rwanda.”
One of my main problems with the design (and therefore, imho, the “reliability”) of the survey is that– in a country where the caste (or “ethnic”) divide between Hutus and Tutsis is still extremely sensitive and important– they report using a team of 26 Rwandan interviewers who were “nearly evenly divided in terms of ethnicity and gender.”(p.208). This, in a situation in which some 85% of the respondents could– if the sample is to be at all nationally representative– be expected to be Hutus…

What I’m assuming is that the “workload” put on each of the 26 interviewers was roughly the same. (If the 50% of the interviewers who were Hutus conducted the roughly 85% of the interviews that would have been Hutus, then forget much of what I am about to write… ) But if roughly 50% of the respondents were dealt with by a Tutsi interviewer, then that means that a heck of a lot of Hutu respondents had exactly such an encounter.
So say you’re a Hutu in a country where (1) the government is dominated by members of (a particular subset of) the Tutsi minority; (2) there is already a strong record of this government punishing anyone, of whatever social status, who tries to challenge it; and (3) this government very actively propagates an ideology that “we are all one nation; there is no meaning at all to the divisions [i.e. between Hutus and Tutsis] that the colonialists formerly used in order to divide the Rwandan people”…
And say that one day, a person who is–as just about every single Rwandan [but few non-Rwandans] would almost immediately be able to judge– a Tutsi. And this person seems educated (= well-connected); has a clipboard; and starts asking all kinds of questions about you, your household income, your caste/ethnic self-identification, and your attitudes…
What on earth do you do?
Producing an exactly accurate articulation of the deepest feelings in your heart might not, I suggest, be your first or most major concern.
Note that what I am absolutely NOT saying here is that “All Rwandans are liars.” What I am saying is that the kind of circumstances I’ve described above– the arrival of the random, apparently “well-connected” visitor, quite possibly a Tutsi, bearing a clipboard, etc etc– are not necessarily the best circumstances in which divination of people’s true opinions could be expected to occur.
Heck, even if a given individual really wanted to speak the whole truth about her attitudes to the interviewer, she would still have her extensive responsibilities to her family and her community to bear in mind. It would not only be the individual survey respondent herself who might well suffer if she happened to give the “wrong” answer to the person with the clipboard (or tape-recorder, or whatever).
So what I’m suggesting is that many of the “results” of this survey would seem to me to be of very little value indeed.
At least in the broadly parallel opinion survey that other survey teams conducted in three targeted communities in former-Yugoslavia (Chs. 7 and 9), they made a point of reporting that they had used an interviewer of the same ethnicity as their Serb, Craotian, or Bosniak respondents in each case.
I can’t believe that Timothy Longman, Phuong Pham, and Harvey M. Weinstein himself, who are listed as the authors of Ch.10, did not think that the caste/ethnicity of their interviewers might be an important factor to control for in Rwanda. I guess that, given the extreme difficulty of doing any research at all in Rwanda these days that involves asking respondents which of the country’s three castes they belong to, the organizers of the survey didn’t feel they could go as far as ensuring a caste “fit” within each interview encounter. They were probably, indeed, being pretty bold when they asked the important question about caste “self-identification” within the body of the survey.
Interestingly, from the 2,091 interviews they reported on, 12.7% of the respondents refused to provide an answer. 62.7% did self-identify as Hutus; 23.1% as Tutsis; and 1.3% as Twa (the country’s very small, third caste grouping.)
Anyway, I’ve seen a few other, much less significant, aspects of the data presentation in that chapter that I also find a bit questionable. But this big issue of not even controlling for having a caste “fit” in each interview encounter– plus, I might say, even more broadly, the general problem of trying to get “accurate” information about people’s attitudes by using a standard public-opinion survey, in a country as authoritarian as Rwanda– means that I don’t actually think I’ll use much of the info from this chapter at all.
What a pity.
In earlier chapters, the book has some interesting material drawn from focus-group discussions on post-genocide justice issues, inside Rwanda. That kind of material seems to me to be perhaps more reliable. Plus, the chapters on former-Yugoslavia seem more reliable and better grounded, in general.