Monday, November 14, 2005

Rwanda Genocide Instigator: "The Accusations Are Malicious"

Anyone who saw Hotel Rwanda will never forget the images of civilians being killed with indiscriminate glee by their neighbors. We all know it can happen almost anywhere, but the processes that lead to things like genocide or race war aren't the Big Mystery some people like to imagine. There are common threads running through most of history's pogroms, hate campaigns and extermination attempts. Hearing guilty men talk about their actions is one way to approach the question of what the hell they were thinking at the time:

Prosecutors at the UN's Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) say former army colonel Theoneste Bagosora, now 64, was in charge as troops and machete-wielding militiamen butchered some 800,000 people.

But in lengthy comments from the stand, Bagosora has accused rebel-turned-president Paul Kagame of triggering the bloodshed, blamed the chief of UN peacekeepers for the murder of Rwanda's prime minister and even denied genocide took place.

"I do not believe in the genocide theory. Most reasonable people concur that there were excessive massacres," Bagosora said during testimony and cross-examining that has already gone on for three weeks since beginning on October 24.

"They have labeled and continue to label me as the mastermind of the massacres. ... The accusations that I led the killings are malicious."

Bagosora's remarks are typical of the unrepentant tone of much of the testimony heard at the UN court, which has so far indicted 81 people, convicted 22 and acquitted three.

The stuff to come out of the Yugoslavian tribunal is often the same -- the same denial, the same refusal to face what happened. Truth and reconciliation are all very fine, but there's a point at which it becomes impossible. It's usually reached when the perpetrators make a speech in open court to the effect that the victims are imagining things.


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