14 August 2012

Rwanda: Rapp Says the Guardian Misquoted Him

Photo: Martine Perret/UN
UN peacekeepers in DR Congo (file photo): The Rwandan government has contested the report's finding that several graves belonged to rebel forces and asserts that they were UN peacekeepers.

"We don't want to get into arguments over facts; we want to be involved in verification processes, and we want to see peace restored to the Kivus," said Stephen Rapp, US ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues, to media in Kigali yesterday.

He also stressed that the quote attributed to him in The Guardian newspaper, according to which he said "the Rwandan president would be charged with aiding war crimes in DR Congo," was not what he said.

"Let me be clear about that. It was the Taylor case I was talking about and I was saying what it means internationally, for all countries," he said. "What I can stand for is a proposition that one can be held responsible for crimes even when you don't cross the border. If you provide aid to a group that is committing atrocities", he said.

Rapp added that he cannot confirm things for which he doesn't have evidence. "On the subject of M23, it should be clear that to date, in terms of mass killing and rape, I have not sees evidence and I don't believe that there was a criminal responsibility [for Rwanda] or any kind of cross-border support".

The ambassador observed that continued arguing over Rwanda supporting M23 or not is not productive, but instead countries, the international community and courts should shift to a more practical approach to resolve problems in the region. "We don't want to get into arguments over facts, we want to be involved in the verification process and we want to see peace restored to the Kivus, making sure that people responsible for atrocities, the leaders of armed groups like FDLR's Mudacumura and others responsible of atrocities in the past and present, can be held responsible", he said.

Martin Ngoga, who had hosted Stephen Rapp, agreed. "The most important thing is that there is an ongoing process for verification, for confronting evidence on the basis of which these decisions [to suspend aid] are made. So these processes must be given a chance to work", he said.

US to help track criminals

A former senior trial attorney and chief of prosecution at international tribunal court for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha-Tanzania, Rapp said there is a will in the USA to arrest genocide fugitives and other criminals. He mentioned the reward of up to U$ 5 million that his country if offering to people who can give information which would lead to a fugitive's arrest.

"It continues in fact, certainly for Kabuga, Protais Mpiranya and Augustin Bizimana whose cases are still in Arusha", Rapp said.

Others on the list are Pheneas Munyarugarama, Fulgence Kayishema, Charles Sikubwabo, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, Charles Ryandikayo and Aloys Ndimbati, whose files were referred by the ICTR to Rwanda for trial.

"This is a key part of the president Obama's initiative to prevent Genocide in the future; the aim is to send a signal that if you commit this kind of crime, you will be hunted for the rest of your life, the world will track you down and bring you to justice," Rapp said.

Rapp discussed with Prosecutor general issues of arresting criminals indicted by the international criminal court (ICC), like Callixte Mudacumura the chief of FDLR. "About Mudacumura, I made it clear that we were happy that he was eventually indicted by the ICC, but the indictment alone is not enough. We need to see efforts on the ground to try and arrest him", he said.

Ngoga for his part said he is convinced that since Mudacumura is known to be in DR Congo, he is not a person the UN should fail to arrest, since UN contingents of MONUSCO are present in their thousands in Congo and he can't be stronger than them. He also commended ongoing efforts to arrest Bosco Ntaganda of M23.

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