March 16 - April 24, 1998
Palais des Nations, Geneva
FI/OP stressed the importance for the international community to receive a more detailed information on the human rights situation in Rwanda. Emmanuel Ntakarutimana op, a member of our delegation, spoke at a public NGOs briefing on the role of the Church in the reconciliation process in Rwanda.
Our group also met several diplomats to express our concerns on the Great Lakes region of Africa and namely on Rwanda. In particular, we maintained a long conversation with Mr. Eugène Gasana, chargé d'affaires at the Rwandan Mission in Geneva. He told us that despite grave obstacles, the current government has made tremendous progress in many fields. The genocide and massacres have ended, the gendarmerie and local governments have been reestablished. Between 2 and 3 million refugees have been repatriated. A system of justice has been rebuilt from ground zero and is independent. Though he recognized that detention centers are badly overcrowded, he stated that it is important to keep persons who had participated in committing terrible atrocities imprisoned, as justice for their victims is a prerequisite for reconciliation and lasting stability. He also expressed his conviction that insecurity continues in the northwest of the country in part because the international community has abdicated its responsibility and ceded control of Zairian refugee camps to the members of the former Rwandan government responsible for the genocide. These forces, he added, have entered Rwanda with the refugees and are targeting genocide survivors, witnesses and those believed to be Tutsi.
In our statements, we said that the decision by the 1997 Commission on Human Rights to rescind the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Rwanda and to replace him with a Special Representative was an unfortunate one. The mandate of the Special Representative is in fact a limited one and it does not give all the necessary information to adequately evaluate the situation in Rwanda. For this reason, we called on the Commission to reinstate the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Rwanda. We also recommended the Rwandan government:
- to initiate a constructive dialogue aimed at the national reconciliation of all parties,
- to guarantee a fair trial to accused persons,
- to provide appropriate measures of reintegration and protection to the refugees who have returned to the country.
According to United Nations reports, approximately 800,000 people are displaced throughout Burundi most of them in so-called "protected sites". The most appalling fact is that, according to UNICEF, 100,000 are displaced children who receive no assistance whatsoever. Encouraged by Missionszentrale Franziskaner (Bonn, Germany) that provided documentation on their work for Burundi, we urged the Commission to renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro on the human rights situation in Burundi.