Statements

Statement by H.E Valentine Rugwabiza Permanent Representative to the UN and Member of the Cabinet at the Security Council Open Debate on Women and Peace and Security: Sexual Violence in Conflict

Mr. President,

I thank you, Hon. Minister of Uruguay and your delegation for organizing this important open debate. I also thank Deputy Secretary General Amina Mohammed, and USG, Mr. Adama Dieng, for their briefings. It is our hope that today’s debate will continue to mobilize collective action against this war crime given the alarmingly growing number of conflicts where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war and terrorism against civilian populations.

Sexual and Gender-based violence is not inevitable. The prevention of and protection from mass atrocities, including sexual violence is a primary state responsibility. As member states, it is our responsibility to put in place the normative and legal framework, enforcement measures to ensure zero tolerance to sexual violence in times of peace or war. However, as we all know, in times of conflict, the rule of law is broken. In such situations, it is our collective responsibility to ensure the protection of those targeted by sexual violence and most in need of protection during conflicts is guaranteed.

Mr.  President,

As situations of conflict continue to worsen in many places with women and children continuing to be the main target of sexual violence, all UN PK missions should have a robust mandate to protect civilians. The Kigali Principles on Protection of Civilians are an effective instrument towards that end. Protection of those in need should be given a priority by ensuring that we take full measures, to provide more effective protection to the civilian population at risk, to create the conditions for humanitarian assistance and to allow investigation of violations and abuses.

Rwanda believes that member states should systematically train all peacekeepers to address gender issues, prevent sexual violence, and protect individuals, including women and girls. Rwanda has operationalized a curriculum for all our troops and Police in the pre-deployment training that includes lessons related to Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. In the same vein, we call other member states to boost women’s participation in each contingent and units, more specifically to include gender advisors, female officers, and the increased presence of female peacekeeping personnel in general. Rwanda meets the target of 15% females in all peacekeeping deployment contingents.

Sexual violence in conflict is a crime that we can eradicate. We strongly believe that our joint efforts can yield tangible results through a combination of preventive and responsive measures; targeted sanctions against all categories of perpetrators, monitoring and systematic reporting, assistance for the victims, empowerment of women and girls, increase of female peacekeepers and advisors and training of all forces in creating an environment of zero tolerance to sexual violence as a weapon of war. Rwanda will continue to support and work closely with the office of the SRSG on sexual violence in implementation of its mandate.

I thank you.

 

H.E. Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Member of Cabinet of the Government of Rwanda, at the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi

Your Excellency Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Your Excellency Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly,
Excellencies, Permanent Representatives to the UN,
Dear Survivors, compatriots, and friends of Rwanda,

On behalf of the people and the Government of Rwanda, I want to thank you all for joining us at this 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Your presence means a lot to Rwanda. It is a mark of your respect for the dignity of the victims and the resilience of the survivors. I take this opportunity to thank the Department of Public Information for their cooperation in organising this annual commemoration.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

The purpose of the annual commemoration at the United Nations is to continue to raise awareness of the international community about our collective responsibility to prevent Genocide from happening anywhere in the world. We do so by honouring the memory of the victims; by renewing our resolve to fight the Genocide ideology and by sharing with the world what we have done in Rwanda to make “Never Again” a reality.

The annual commemoration also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on lessons learnt since the failure of the international community to prevent and stop the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The theme for this year’s commemoration; “Remember the Genocide against the Tutsi – Fight Genocide Ideology – Build on Our Progress,” reminds us that the Genocide against the Tutsi was the result of a well-organised plan and ideology to exterminate all Tutsi. It also reminds us that the ideology didn’t stop with the end of the Genocide. Indeed, the denial, alteration, and distortion of the facts of Genocide are all well-known and documented mechanisms used by Genocide ideologues.

One of the mechanisms used by Genocide deniers is the use of deliberately confusing language. Whenever we refer to the Genocide against the Tutsi, historical clarity and the use of correct words are of critical importance. What we commemorate today is neither the Rwanda Genocide nor the 1994 Genocide. It is the Genocide against the Tutsi. Any other reference is inaccurate, misleading and wrong. Let us remember that the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established by this very body concluded in its judgment on 2nd September 1998 that; “Genocide was, indeed, committed in Rwanda against the Tutsi as a group.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know that the Genocide against the Tutsi was not inevitable yet it happened. The question to reflect on today is “Why?” Why those who had the responsibility and capability to prevent or stop it didn’t act? Why those in positions of influence and authority at the time, made the wrong decisions? Many elaborate explanations have been suggested to explain the failure of the international community to act and stop the Genocide against the Tutsi. The truth is much simpler; those who were invested by the Charter of the United Nations with the duty and responsibility to prevent and stop the Genocide against the Tutsi did not consider that the lives of those targeted mattered sufficiently to warrant their protection. If faced with a similar situation today, will they act differently? We can only hope so, and it is this hope that lessons have been learnt from our tragic History that informs our annual commemoration at the United Nations.

We pay special tribute to the Ghanaian contingent of peacekeepers in Rwanda in 1994 and to the late Captain Mbaye Diagne from Senegal. These fellow Africans refused the orders of the then UN leadership in New York to evacuate with the rest of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda and thus to abandon the victims to their fate. To them, the lives of those targeted mattered. These gallant sons and daughters of Africa demonstrated courage, empathy and a sense of responsibility that many others lacked.

In Rwanda, we have learned hard lessons from our tragic history. We have learned that Genocide ideology strives where its manifestations and expressions are tolerated. We have learned that hatred knows no borders. It is a poison that spreads where human rights violations are widespread with no accountability.

We also learnt that the most effective defense against Genocide ideology is our cohesion as a people and it is this lesson that informed our choices for unity, reconciliation and a governance system centered on the wellbeing and dignity of all Rwandans.

Rwanda today offers a story of hope; how a country and its people can stand strong in the face of adversity and together build a new and united nation. Through investing in our people and building institutions, we have delivered peace, security, opportunity and, more importantly, dignity for all Rwandans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by thanking all of you again for your presence at the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. I thank in particular the survivors. Your strength and resilience remains a source of inspiration.

We also remain forever indebted to the Rwanda Defense Forces – men and women who, under the command of His Excellency President Paul Kagame, single-handedly stopped the Genocide against the Tutsis in July 1994. Without them, there wouldn’t be survivors like Sonia to tell their story.

I thank you.

(A moment of reflection at the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi at the United Nations.)

 

Statement by H.E. Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, Permanent Representative and Member of Cabinet, at the Security Council Debate on the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)

Thank you, Mr. President.

At the outset, let me congratulate the delegation of Spain through you Mr. President for your assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of December. Let me also congratulate the Delegation of Senegal for an exceptional work done during its Presidency in the month of November.

I thank Judges Theodor Meron, President of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, and Carmel Agius, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well as Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, as well as the other previous speakers for their respective briefings and statements.

Mr. President,

As we reflect on the activities of the Mechanism of the International Tribunals, let me reiterate our belief that despite serious shortcomings, the ICTR produced a substantial body of jurisprudence, including definitions of the crime of Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, rape as weapon of war; as well as forms of responsibility, such as superior responsibility.

The Court also went further to conclude in its judicial notice on 2 September 1998 that “Genocide was, indeed, committed in Rwanda against the Tutsi as a group” as well as through Appeal Chamber on 16th June 2006 that it is a “fact of common knowledge” that “[between 6 April and 17 July 1994, there was a Genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi ethnic group”; and that “[there is no reasonable basis for anyone to dispute that, during 1994, there was a campaign of mass killing intended to destroy, in whole or at least in very large part, Rwanda’s Tutsi population.”

We believe that these were legal doctrines and tests for assessing components of Genocide crime, including the prosecution of 93 individuals, mainly the masterminds; thus standing as an important contribution to the post-Genocide justice, reconciliation and healing in Rwanda.

Despite this however, let me express our concern at ongoing attempts by Genocide perpetrators and their henchmen in the names of scholars, media and politicians to deny the occurrence of the 1994 Genocide committed against the Tutsi; to distort facts and; attempt to rewrite its history. As such actions continue to be an ugly shared reality, we call upon UN member states, individuals, institutions and the broader international community to denounce on unequivocal terms such attempts to deny or trivialize Acts of Genocide, as well as to minimize its scale. We also call upon UN member states, individuals, institutions and the broader international community to hold to account all those who indulge or support Genocide deniers or revisionists.

It is also regrettable that none of the remaining ICTR indicted fugitives have been arrested in the last five years; in addition to other suspects against whom there are ample and indisputable evidence.  We once again call all member states, especially those harboring Genocide fugitives, to honor their obligations to the UN Charter, and the Genocide Convention to arrest, put to trial all suspects in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, or extradite them to where they can be tried, including in Rwanda. Anything short of that raises serious questions on the credibility of their stated commitment to international justice.

We are equally concerned by the worrying pattern of early releases of convicted Genocide masterminds. The observed pattern of reducing sentences of Genocide convicts on appeal is alarming.

We commend recent efforts by Canada, Netherlands and U.S. for recent arrests and extradition to Rwanda and hope that more other countries will do so in respect of Genocide suspects residing in their territories. We also welcomed the prosecution and subsequent convictions of Octavian Ngenzi and Tito Barahira in Paris’ Cour d’Assises; as well as the recent confirmation through Appeal, of the sentence of Pascal Simbikangwa.

We regret that the status of progress in monitoring of cases referred to national courts outside Rwanda remains disappointing, while the procedure of two cases referred to Rwanda in 2012 and 2013 are well advanced. Last year, we noted with concern the decision by the French Prosecution to drop charges against Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a decision that contradicts the nature and scale of the crimes committed in light of available evidence.

The crime of Genocide is imprescriptible and Rwanda will continue to legally pursue and seek answers from individuals, institutions and Governments for the allegations of Acts of commission and omission, without which the Genocide could have either been prevented or deterred expeditiously. At the very least, member states should refuse to grant Genocide perpetrators safe havens in their countries.

Mr. President,

Allow me to come back to the issue of ICTR archives, which is an important matter to the Government of Rwanda and its people.

While we have on many occasions and at different levels, expressed our view on the issue of the archives, and the urgent need for them to be relocated to Rwanda while remaining the property of the UN, we are concerned by the lack of engagement by stakeholders, as well as the unilateral decision to store the Genocide archives in a specific location without involving Rwanda. Location of these important pieces of the History of Rwanda cannot be decided merely on the basis of budgetary, logistical and administrative considerations.

Rwanda also wishes to clarify to this Council and put on record that a significant part of the documents, which compose today’s ICTR archives, were obtained from Rwanda and released as evidence in court and not for possession or archiving. They are legally the property of Rwanda and have yet to be returned to Rwanda.

The ICTR archives are the most comprehensive account of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. A piece of History that Rwanda will not stop demanding for the Genocide happened in Rwanda and that part of our History belongs to Rwanda. Should any party have concerns with our legitimate request, we are open to engaging in a candid conversation with the aim of addressing our longstanding demand.

In conclusion Mr. President, let me assure you of my country’s unwavering commitment to work with all member states and the UN to bring to justice all perpetrators, planners, deniers, and revisionists of the Genocide against the Tutsi who are still at large.

Thank you for your kind attention.