Thursday, February 28, 2008

In the shadow of the dead

You might have missed this. In fact, you might have missed the death of 800,000 people, the rape of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, the 99 days of killing.
A Belgian journalist jailed for inciting Rwanda's 1994 genocide was handed over on Thursday to police from Italy, where he will serve the rest of his sentence.

Georges Ruggiu, 50, is the only non-Rwandan convicted by an international court in Tanzania that is trying the architects of the slaughter. It jailed him for 12 years in June 2000.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) said the transfer followed an agreement between the United Nations and the Italian government, and a recent ruling by a Rome court that allowed ICTR sentences to be enforced in Italy.

Ruggiu, a former school teacher whose father was Italian, was a presenter on Rwanda's Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) during the genocide and an infamous voice behind what became known as "hate radio".

As soldiers and ethnic Hutu militias butchered some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days of bloodshed, he and others at the station exhorted the killers to greater efforts.

He fled Rwanda afterwards but was arrested in Mombasa, Kenya, in July 1997 and transferred to the ICTR in northern Tanzania.

He pleaded guilty to charges of direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, and later testified against his former boss and others at RTLM. He also converted to Islam while behind bars.

In was not immediately clear where in Italy Ruggiu would serve out the rest of his jail time. In its sentencing, the ICTR said his time in custody since his arrest should be taken into account, meaning he could be eligible for release in mid-2009.
Georges Ruggiu has a Wikipedia entry.

Rwanda formally protested the lenient sentence, a story that when the BBC reported it, they put "lenient" in quotation marks. Ruggiu will likely be released next year.

A Voice of America story when he pleaded guilty gives more background on him. So does this story on RTLM propaganda. Ruggiu likened the killing to the French Revolution.
On 30 June, Georges Ruggiu, referring to the 'furious population', stated: 'Has Robespierre not done exactly the same in France?' (Chrétien 1995: 204).
It isn't likely that anyone in Rwanda will be able to protest moving Ruggiu to Italy. The formal sentencing includes this little proviso.
RULE that imprisonment shall be served in a State designated by the President of the Tribunal, in consultation with the Trial Chamber, and the said designation shall be conveyed to the Government of Rwanda and the designated State by the Registry;
The United Nations International Crime Tribunals are more than a disgrace. They deliberately work to mask the role that Belgium and France played in the tragedy.
Among the reasons why the ICTR has been criticized as ineffective is the fact that so far only 14 cases have been ended with a final verdict, despite the fact that the Tribunal has been working for almost a decade and the 872 employees have had a budget of almost 180 m US$ at their disposal for the years 2002 to 2003.
Also see Rwanda Initiative , a self-congratulating symposium crippled by a "tight timeline" that seems obscene considering they were talking about 800,000 people who died in nine-nine days. The role of the media - always referred to a "hate media" during the genocide "demonstrated how the power of the media could be used to destroy." Only lightly skimmed over was the role of international media that not only evacuated at the first sign of violence, but who have ignored the massive killing every since in a reprise of their role in Cambodia under Pol Pot.

Ruggiu is the only European convicted. He was convicted of direct and public incitement to commit genocide for his broadcasts. He was a journalist and producer with the “Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines S.A. (RTLM) and worked in Kigali. Founded in 1993, the RTLM broadcast the ideology and the objectives of extremist Hutus throughout Rwanda until the end of July 1994.Georges Ruggiu worked for the RTLM between January and July 1994. He is white.

RTLM was founded in 1993 by two wealthy Rwandan businessmen and with the aid of the German Seidel Foundation. 1 Radio equipment was supplied through Bavaria. In 2002, the U.S. State Department offered a $5 million reward for the capture of former RTLM President Félicien Kabuga. He is believed to be in Kenya.

During the killing months, Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire called for the radio to be jammed, an action opposed by the French and the American governments. That would be Bill Clinton, in case the media fails to tell you that salient fact.

1 Scherrer, Christian P., Genocide and Crisis in Central Africa: Conflict Roots, Mass Violence, and Regional War, p 130 Footnote 10.

Previous stories on Rwanda. Here Here RTLM was broadcast in French.

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