Rwanda Comments on UN Genocide Mapping Report: II. Rwanda Complied with International Law
II. Rwanda Complied with International Law Governing the Use of Force
Rwanda’s Repeated Warnings
The Government of Rwanda submits
15. The Government of Rwanda (GoR), beginning in late 1994, repeatedly warned the international community as a whole, and the Security Council in particular, that the ex-FAR/Interahamwe forces were preparing and carrying out attacks on the territory and people of Rwanda. In February 1995, the Rwandan Ambassador to the United Nations explicitly warned the Security Council of the events that would ultimately unfold, and encouraged them to engage in preventive measures.9 In December 1995, these warnings were repeated.10
16. It was not just the GoR that raised its concerns about attacks during these Security Council meetings. Many other nations explicitly recognized that attacks were being orchestrated and carried out against Rwanda. In Security Council meetings throughout 1995, United Nations Ambassadors from a host of states acknowledged the attacks on Rwanda originating from the militarized refugee camps in the former Zaire.11
17. The Secretary General issued a progress report in August 1995 denouncing the attacks on Rwanda as well as the rearmament of the genocidal forces.12 In December 1995, a Security Council resolution acknowledged that attacks had already taken place on the territory of Rwanda from armed combatants in the former Zaire residing in internationally funded refugee camps. It also noted that the same combatants were preparing further armed attacks against Rwanda.13
18. During the 48th session of the UNHCR Executive Committee, the High Commissioner acknowledged the total failure of the international community to address the refugee crisis in Eastern Zaire, and implicitly conceded to the legitimacy of Rwanda’s military intervention based on self-defense:
“The primary problem was the international community’s failure to separate those who deserved international protection from those who did not, ensuring the physical security of the former and preventing the latter from committing violent attacks on both nationals and refugees…The rights of refugees to asylum and no blocking out were the foundation of the UNHCR mandate and UNHCR’s commitment to defend and promote them was non-negotiable. However, those principles must be implemented in constructive, realistic and creative ways that took account of the legitimate concerns of States.”14
Chapter VII: The Use of Force In Self-Defense
19. Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter governs the use of force by member states. Though the organizations primary role is to settle threats to international peace and security, Article 51 clearly preserves a states right to self-defense.15 In the face of repeated attacks on Rwandan territory by ex-FAR/Interahamwe forces operating out of refugee camps in the former Zaire, the GoR repeatedly appealed to the United Nations Security Council for assistance. When these pleas were met with words not deeds, Rwanda, relying on Article 51 authority, employed proportional force to neutralize the threat.
20. Rwandans learned the hard way not to rely on empty promises from the international community. In 1996 the country sought an end to armed attacks on innocent Rwandan civilians, and moved to liberate innocent refugees who the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe cynically exploited as human shields. Rwanda’s actions in this regard were well within its rights under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Ex-FAR/Interahamwe: The Use of Civilians as a Weapon of War
21. The genocidal forces tactical use of civilians in their military campaign complicated the situation in the former Zaire. As stated previously, the exodus of refugees into Zaire in the aftermath of the genocide was by all standards a political-military strategy to serve the purposes of the genocidal government in exile. The outflow was also highly organized, with administrative structures simply transferred across the border. There are several reasons why the Ex-FAR and Interahamwe had to coerce innocent civilians to go with them.
22. First, they wanted to use the refugees as a future military recruitment pool. Second, they intended to use them as human shields. Third, the presence of a large number of refugees offered convenient cover for their military actions. Fourth, by holding a large number of refugees, they sought to discredit the GoR and, as a last resort, use them as bargaining chip for negotiations with the GoR. Fifth, they used the refugees to leverage aid from humanitarian organizations which they could use to support the war effort.
Responding to Particular Allegations Regarding the Use of Force
23. Responding to each allegation leveled in The Draft Mapping Report is not possible given its lack of transparency: unnamed victims, witnesses, perpetrators, and investigators. However, the GoR can only comment on those allegations based on documentation regarding specific regions at specific times. This section offers examples to clarify the record, and proof that an evaluation of the incidents, as reported by The Draft Mapping Report, was flawed.
24. Paragraphs 219, 220 and 221 of The Draft Mapping Report allege that the RPA indiscriminately fired heavy weapons at the Mugunga refugee camp. The intention of the RPA and the conduct of operations around the Mugunga camp aimed at liberating and repatriating innocent civilian refugees. In the conduct of operations, the RPA occupied positions that blocked exits farther inside the former Zaire, and left open safe corridors leading to Rwanda, but never fired any weapons into the camp. Loudspeakers were used to call upon refugees to return to Rwanda. This concept of operation applied to most camps occupied by large groups of refugees. In response to such measures, the ex-FAR and Interahamwe used the refugees as human shields.
25. The initial civilian casualties within Mugunga resulted from the shooting by the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe, who sought to prevent the refugees from returning to Rwanda. The subsequent civilian casualties resulted from the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe attempts to break through the RPA lines. The third group of casualties included Ex-FAR/Interahamwe and lamentably, civilian refugees held hostage, resulting from clashes between the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe and the Mai Mai along Sake-Masisi road.
26. In paragraphs 32 and 222, The Draft Mapping Report alleges that on the day of the fall of the Mugunga camp, 15 November 1995, the AFDL/APR units sorted refugees by age and gender, allowing the women, children and elderly to escape while killing the men. Again, the priority objective of the operation was to have all refugees return to Rwanda. In order to facilitate the return of hundreds of thousands of refugees, the APR formed a blocked corridor eastward from Lac Vert to Mugunga through Goma, and finally the border with Rwanda. This corridor kept the refugees from fleeing in the wrong direction, as well as protecting them from outside violence. At that point, there was no demarcation between the Mugunga and Lac Vert refugee camps.
27. The massive number of refugees – 600,000 – combined with the atmosphere of panic created by fighting against the ex-FAR/Interahamwe on the outskirts of the camps created a sea of refugees walking toward Rwanda. These conditions did not allow for screening of any sort, and, in fact, this incident resulted in the return of thousands of armed combatants to Rwanda who later initiated the insurgency in the North.
28. The Draft Mapping Report alleges, in paragraphs 200 and 202 respectively, that “On 20 October 1996, units of the AFDL/APR from Bwegera and the Rwandan town of Bugarama attacked the Kamanyola refugee camp in the Walungu territory, killing an unknown number of refugees…” and “… On 2 November 1996, AFDL/APR units attacked the Kashusha/INERA camp in the Kabare territory with heavy weapons, killing hundreds of refugees…” In line with the RPA’s concept of operation, the refugee camps were never attacked as such. The setup of the refugee camps in South Kivu was such that the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe provided a perimeter defense with trenches. There were also inner defensive positions inside the camps. Whenever an RPA advance was detected, the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe forward defenses would attack the advancing RPA force to avoid being encircled. In the process, the refugee population would flee. This is precisely what happened in Kamanyola, Kashusha, Inela, ADI-Kivu and other camps. The casualties reported in those particular camps were a result of fierce fighting between the RPA and the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe.
29. It is alleged in paragraph 245 that “…22 April 1997, AFDL/APR units, accompanied by villagers, killed at least 200 refugees in the Kasese I and II camps, in the presence of several APR senior figures.” However, the RPA never carried out any operations in Kasese during the first military campaign in Zaire.
30. More generally, allegations are made throughout The Draft Mapping Report that the RPA employed the use of edged cold weapons.16 A conventional fighting force such as the RPA would never carry these types of primitive weapons while traversing a vast country during a military campaign. Theses types of cold weapons would simply add unnecessary baggage. This is an attempt by the authors of The Draft Mapping Report to mirror-image the methods, tools and cruelty used by the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.
31. In order to accurately understand the incidents leading up to the use of force in the former Zaire, the complications confronted during the military campaign due to the use of civilians as a weapon of war on the part of Ex-FAR/Interahamwe forces, and details of specific battles, the authors of The Draft Mapping Report would have benefited greatly from consulting the militaries of each nation involved in the military struggle from 1993 – 2003.
32. The Draft Mapping Report systematically extracts the events it refers to from their military context. It is despicable that civilians were used as a weapon of war, and that innocent Rwandan lives were lost as collateral damage in a military campaign to disarm combatants. However, to characterize this use of force now as war crimes, crimes against humanity, or even genocide ignores all of the realities surrounding the combat in Zaire.
9 See U.N. Security Council 3604th Meeting, UN Doc S/PV.3504 (27 February 1995), page 4.
15 Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.”