Monday, July 2, 2007
international criminal tribunal for rwanda
from the witness: "You know, I would not wish you ever experience war in your country..."
"On or about the evening of 6 April and the morning of 7 April 1994 Joseph
NZIRORERA engaged in communications with Interahamwe militiamen in
Mukingo and Nkuli communes and exhorted them to start killing the Tutsi
population in Ruhengeri. Joseph NZIRORERA went so far as to instruct that
the killings should begin with one of his own children born of KIBERWA, a
Tutsi woman, to instigate militiamen and armed Hutu residents in Mukingo to
kill all Tutsi without exception, and instructed that this message be widely
when does life become a page in a text book?
after giving up my passport, cellphone, and recording devices, i was allowed into the UN''s tribunal for Rwanda held in Arusha. a maze of hallways and elevators took us to a particular floor where 3 cases were being tried. a set of translation headphones and i was escorted into the viewing area that allows the public to watch the particular trial. between the courtroom and the public is a thick glass wall through which you can see three or four rows of lawyers for the accused on the left, the three judges at a table directly in front, and the two rows of lawyers for the prosecution on the right.
sitting against the glass is the witness box, which can be curtained off so that the witness's identity is hidden from the public. also along either side of the witness, is a row of aids. hidden behind another glass wall on either side are the translators that continuously dictate into their language--french, english, or kirwandain. the public viewing is helped by multiple cameras that broadcast the lawyers, witnesses, judges, and admitted evidence on 3 screens for the public area.
the trials have gone on for years and years now. this day, in my room, was Joseph Nzirorera himself and his many lawyers. on the stand was a man, Jean Bosco Twahirwa, whose entire family had been killed. he had been forced to drive trucks that contained weapons for his employer, Nzirorera. Nzirorera's lawyers were very good, attempting to discredit this man.
he spoke passionately in his native kirwandain, his words piped into my ears at times by a young african voice and others by a dour old brit with a wry sense of humor. the defense attorneys kept harping on how these weapons came in on a plane and yet were not documented and the witness would laugh. it is hard to describe to someone unfamiliar with the ways of africa how business is conducted on a day to day business even without the presence of war all around. a little shilingi here a little shilingi there- this is how things happen. on and on the accusations were made that the witness was lying, that there was only his word about these weapons. why had he not reported such weapons at the time? to which he replied that "weapons were like fruit on the street" everyone had them, it was not abnormal to see such things.
the attorneys demanded he name names of others made to do such work and when he would not, or could not, they again accused him of lies
as he said: when they were being killed "we didn't know we would be on trial to report" but that "the truth will be known, this is only the beginning. it may take a hundred years, but the truth will be known... Where are we headed for reconciliation when people deny their responsibility? Council Robenson, it is your right to be prejudice to me. But i have no reason to invent what i know... If i am lying will that bring my mother and father back to me? ... You ask me to come and testify what i have seen. I am a witness and my conscious is clear."