Scrapbook of Zaire condition/02

Date: 15 Nov 96
Subject: Zaire--HRW Urges Separation of Armed Elements from Refugees
Precedence: bulk
(New York, November 15, 1996) As Rwandan refugees streamed out of the major camp at Mugunga in eastern Zaire, Human Rights Watch/Africa today stressed that any new camps established for them must exclude anyone bearing arms, including armed soldiers of the former Rwandan army and militia responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. According to Peter Takirambudde, Director of Human Rights Watch/Africa, "When refugee camps were first established in Zaire, the international community permitted the civilian and military authorities who had carried out a genocide to reassert their control over the refugee population. To fail to separate armed elements from unarmed refugees now would simply repeat the mistake, postponing any real solution to the crisis. The proposed international force cannot simply hand out porridge; it must offer effective protection for the lives and human rights of the refugees."

Troops of the United States and other participants in the multinational force should rigorously screen all who seek entry to the new sites to ensure that no one bearing arms is admitted. In addition, to protect camps and humanitarian relief corridors, the force must also effectively police areas inside and around the perimeters of the camps to protect refugees and humanitarian workers from assault or intimidation. If the multinational force fails to establish its authority within the camp sites, the Rwandans who directed the genocide could once again take control.

The human rights organization insisted that the force must be mandated to arrest any person indicted by or sought by the International Tribunal for Rwanda in connection with the 1994 genocide. "All the talk of international justice is hollow rhetoric unless the troops are directed to arrest those sought by the Tribunal and provided with the means to do so," Takirambudde said.

Human Rights Watch/Africa also urged the international community to provide resources needed to increase the number of United Nations Human Rights Field Officers monitoring the situation within Rwanda. The Rwandan government has reportedly agreed to adding 200 officers to the 100 now working in the country. This addition of human rights monitors would increase confidence among the returning refugees and help ensure their safe integration into their home communities.

Among the returning refugees, some will certainly be arrested on charges of having participated in the genocide and will swell further the ranks of those now awaiting trial in Rwandan prisons. More than 83,000 persons are detained in inhumane conditions. Rwanda recently adopted a law establishing a system of plea-bargaining for many of those accused of genocide and setting the punishment for those found guilty. It has also received substantial foreign aid for rehabilitating the judicial system and for training magistrates and other judicial personnel. With the legal framework in place and the human and material resources now available, Rwanda should proceed immediately with trial of persons accused of genocide. It must also ensure that future arrests, whether among those now resident in the country or those returning from the camps, be made according to due process.

While acknowledging the need for an international humanitarian response, Human Rights Watch stressed that the fundamental causes of the crisis impunity for past crimes, lack of protection for human rights, and the importance of dialogue among the political actors still must be addressed by both local and international governments.

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