It's sometimes said that the more things change, the more they
stay the same. Today in Central Africa that expression is becoming
a tragic reality.
More than two years ago, the tiny African nation of Rwanda was
torn asunder by ethnic hatred. Hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were
slaughtered, millions of civilians were forced to flee, chaotic
refugee camps were established, and the entire region was
Today, while the genocidal impulses of 1994 have dissipated,
ethnic hatred and regional instability still simmers. And while we
can be thankful that many of the refugees are returning to Rwanda,
the question of reconciliation and rebuilding must now become
The persistent instability in Central Africa is due in no small
part to the abiding ethnic tensions in Rwanda's neighbors: Burundi
and, of course, Zaire. However, equally important is the question
of judicial response to the genocide of 1994.
For the many Hutus who are guilty of crimes against humanity and
for the Tutsis, who bore the brunt of the genocidal frenzy, justice
remains unfulfilled. While the international community established
a tribunal to prosecute war criminals, the court remains
undermanned, underfunded, and seemingly incapable of providing the
necessary closure for Rwanda's national nightmare. Only this past
September did the tribunal bring its first defendant to trial -
nearly 2 years after the killing.
Ad hoc international justice
Part of the problem is that significant numbers of the Hutu
population were involved in the killings - from the defense
minister down to local officials and ordinary citizens. But a
larger, general problem is the continuing, ad hoc nature of
international justice, particularly when dealing with crimes
The tribunals in Rwanda and Bosnia provide even greater evidence
that, 50 years after the Nuremberg trials to prosecute Nazi war
criminals, the world community must finally establish a permanent
international tribunal to bring war criminals to justice.
Creating a permanent tribunal will establish a lasting framework
for prosecuting war criminals - replacing the largely ad hoc and
underfunded efforts that we've seen in Bosnia and Rwanda.
Additionally, it would send a clear signal to tyrants and murderers
that they will ultimately be held accountable.
Some may scoff at the notion that international tribunals can
deter future genocides. But let us not forget that the Hutu
conspirators in Rwanda took inspiration from the failure of the
international community to act after similar ethnic massacres in
Burundi - in much the same way that Hitler took encouragement from
the world's tepid response to the Armenian genocide in 1915.
In 1993, 50,000 ethnic Hutu and Tutsi were savagely murdered in
Burundi while the international community did nothing. The result
was an emboldened Hutu majority in Rwanda, with little fear of
punishment from the international community.
In Rwanda, those intent on punishing the guilty are finding that
it is an almost herculean task - similar to the experience of my
father, Sen. …