Rwanda: All Right-Thinking People Must Fight Genocide Deniers - UN Court Chief

The President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, or the Mechanism, Judge Carmel Agius, on Wednesday, April 7, firmly moved against deniers of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Genocide deniers, he noted, will stop at nothing in their attempts to erase or revise the past and, as such, all right-thinking people must counter the misguided arguments of the genocide deniers with equal, if not greater intensity to ensure that the truth prevails and lessons are learned.

This was in his message as he participated in the programme in The Netherlands to commemorate the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

First, Judge Agius noted, it is difficult for the human brain to fathom the volume and scale of Rwanda's loss whereby every single man, woman, and child who fell at the hands of génocidaires represented an entire world.

"As I address you from my home in The Hague, far away from Rwanda, let me assure you that the Rwandan people are ever more present in my heart and in my mind. It is of paramount importance that we keep the spirit of Kwibuka living on in perpetuity," he said.

"While this remembrance plays an essential role in ensuring that momentum is not lost in bringing to account the remaining perpetrators of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, it also aids in countering those who add insult to injury, who commit an additional heinous crime against the victims of these atrocities - those engaged in genocide denial."

Genocide denialism is not a new phenomenon, he noted.

Sadly, he said, history "has taught us that" as surely as night follows day, denialism follows the depraved act of Genocide.

Agius explained that the concept manifests itself in a number of different ways, the twisting of reality, the glorification of convicted criminals, the justification of the unjustifiable, and revisionism.

It is also not simply the denial of facts, he said, but a distortion of the truth.

In the digital society we live in, he noted, with access to countless unverifiable sources of information, the concept of "alternative facts" has become all too pervasive, and denialism thrives.

Will stop at nothing in attempts to erase past

Although the world's interconnectivity via social media brings us closer together, it also serves as a platform to enable this despicable practice, the Judge said. He pointed out that through social media, génocidaires and their supporters have access to an unlimited audience to promote their outrageous narrative.

"They will stop at nothing in their attempts to erase or revise the past. If we are not vigilant, the tiniest of untruths that is allowed to go unchallenged will multiply and spread, and become even more difficult to rectify in the future."

"Therefore, all right-thinking people must counter the misguided arguments of the genocide deniers with equal, if not greater intensity to ensure that the truth prevails and lessons are learned. Only facts can fight lies, and we must stand united to ensure that the facts are being heard."

Judge Agius stressed that the inaction of the international community, but also of every individual, when confronted with such denial would be tantamount to complicity in creating an alternate reality.

It would further abet, he said, the dehumanisation of the survivors and strip them of both recognition and justice.

"Denialism does not only inflict additional pain and suffering on the victims of the genocide, it delays reconciliation and is an overall danger to peace and security," he said.

Moreover, the Judge observed, Genocide denial is a direct threat to international justice and the rule of law.

Translating ICTR judgements

The now closed ICTR, he recalled, was established not only to bring justice to the victims, but also to contribute to the process of national reconciliation and to the restoration and maintenance of peace.

The ICTR closed its doors in December 2015 after indicting 93 individuals suspected of being among the most responsible for the 1994 Genocide.

The judge also noted that the Mechanism has now completed the Kinyarwanda translations of all remaining ICTR trial judgements, and is in the process of making them accessible so that these judgements will be available in the language of, and for, the Rwandan people.

Lies written in ink, or on social media, he said, will not erase facts written in blood.

"Indeed, the ICTR judgements are filled with facts written in blood. I reiterate that having established this as an objective fact, it is important to confront the denialists and call evil by its name."

"We must do this, not simply to set the record straight and to deliver justice to the victims, but because it is the right thing to do. Because it is the least we can do to ensure that the uncountable souls who perished did not die in vain. Of this there can be no denial."

Olivier Nduhungirehe, the Rwandan envoy in the Netherlands, among others, thanked the Dutch government for taking its part in the global efforts against genocide denial.

"We believe that commemorations and public awareness campaigns are preventive measures of prime importance against this scourge. However, this is far from enough," he said.

This is why the Embassy, he said, together with IBUKA-Netherlands, is ready to work with the Dutch government and municipalities to find a place in Netherlands for a memorial of the Genocide against the Tutsi. They also want to ensure that the Genocide against the Tutsi - a major event in the history of humanity - is adequately taught in Dutch schools and other forums.

"Furthermore, as preventive measures are never enough to avoid the commission of a crime, we hope that the host government will consider adopting legislation against denial of the genocide against the Tutsi, on the model of laws already enacted in France and Belgium," Nduhungirehe said.

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