Panel 1: Hate
Media in Rwanda
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Nowrojee. Harvard Law School, author of Shattered Lives
Frank Chalk: Excellent,
thank you very much. Our third speaker, Binaifer Nowrojee,
will now present.
Binaifer Nowrojee: My
name is Binaifer Nowrojee. I work with Human Rights Watch.
Recently, Romeo Dallaire testified before the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, and one of the questions that
he was asked by the prosecutor' s office, was a question about
what he noticed about the female corpses during the genocide.
To which he responded, that young girls, young women, would
be laid out, with their dresses over their heads, the legs
spread and bent. You could see what seemed to be semen, drying
or dried and it all indicated to me that these women were
raped. And then, a variety of materials were crushed or implanted
into their vagina, their breasts were cut off, and the faces
were, in many cases, still.
In many cases still the eyes were open,
and there was like a face that seemed horrified, or something.
They all laid on their backs. I would say generally at the
sites, you could find younger girls and young women, who had
been raped. Dallaire' s aide, Brent Beardsley, who also testified
recently, was asked the same question, and his response in
court was to say he had noticed two characteristics about
the female corpses; one, when they killed women, it appeared
that the blows that killed them were aimed at sexual organs,
either breasts or vagina. They had been deliberately swiped
or slashed in those areas. And secondly, there was a great
deal of what we came to believe was rape, where the women'
s bodies or clothes would be ripped off their bodies. They
would be lying back in a back position, their legs spread,
especially in the case of very young girls. I' m talking girls
as young as six, seven years of age. Their vaginas would be
split and swollen from obviously multiple gang rape, and then,
they would have been killed in that position. So they were
lying in the position that they had been raped.
Rape was one of the hardest things to deal
with in Rwanda on our part. It deeply affected every one of
us. We had a habit at night of coming back to the headquarters,
and after the activities had slowed down for the night, before
we went to bed, sitting around talking about what had happened
that day, drinking coffee, having a chat, and among all of
us, the hardest thing that we had to deal with was not so
much the bodies of people, the murder of people. I know that
can sound bad, but that wasn' t as bad to us as the rape,
and especially systematic rape and gang rape of children.
Massacres kill the body. Rape kills the soul, and there was
a lot of rape. It seemed that everywhere we went from the
period of19th of April until the time we left, there was rape
everywhere near those killing sites.
The sexual violence that took place during
the Rwandan genocide was not some sort of random, opportunistic,
unfortunate byproduct of the genocide. This was a tactic of
genocide. This was a deliberately selected form of abuse that
was directed at women, both on the basis of their gender,
and also in the case of Tutsi women, on the basis of their
ethnicity. And this form of violence didn' t just pop up out
of nowhere. If you look at the genocide propaganda that preceded
the Rwandan genocide, and you look at the role of the Rwandan
media in portraying images of women, particularly Tutsi women,
you will see in that propaganda, portrayal of women, Tutsi
women, as being beautiful, sexual, seductresses, but devious,
using their sexuality in order to undermine the Hutu, in order
to perpetuate a Tutsi agenda.
The print media, Kangura, depicted vile
cartoons of Tutsi women using their sexual prowess on UN peacekeepers,
or using their beauty in order to undermine the Hutu community.
Kangura warned Hutus, " be on guard against Tutsi women."
The Ten Commandants of the Hutu, which laid out rules for
what should be done; four of those mentioned women, Tutsi
women, and how you have to be careful of them. And so not
surprisingly when the violence began, the violence directed
at the Tutsi women was sexual violence. Rape served to degrade
and destroy Tutsi women, and the effect of the media propaganda
is seen very readily when you begin to interview rape victims
in Rwanda. The comments that were made to them in the course
of the sexual violence, the ethnic invectives used as they
were being raped, mirror exactly the depiction of these women
in the gender propaganda that was put out before the genocide.
There' s a correlation between the hate propaganda that was
put out, both by print media, Kangura, and also then replicated
on the airwaves with the RTLM, and then the subsequent acts
of violence again women.
And so now post genocide, what justice
can we offer to these women, who have had genocide crimes
committed against them, specifically directed at their gender.
And here the International Criminal Tribunal can play a role,
and unfortunately, there' s been very little justice for Rwandan
women out of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
for many reasons, and there' s no time to go into that here.
But what I do want to just point out is that in the media
judgment that came out, there was a paragraph that did mention
gender violence, and I think it' s an important paragraph.
I' m just going to read it so you have a sense, because I
think it provides some way to begin to build on this, and
to begin to provide justice to women. This is a starting point.
In the media judgment that the Rwanda tribunal
gave out, I quote here, " the Chamber notes that Tutsi
women, in particular, were targeted for persecution. The portrayal
of the Tutsi woman as a femme fatale, and the message that
Tutsi women were seductive agents of the enemy, was conveyed
repeatedly by RTLM, the radio, and Kangura, the print. The
Ten Commandments broadcast on RTLM and published in Kangura,
vilified and endangered Tutsi women. By defining the Tutsi
women as an enemy in this way, RTLM and Kangura articulated
a framework, that made the sexual attack of Tutsi women a
forseeable consequence of the role attributed to them."
Now those words, " foreseeable consequence," are
extremely important words, because now as the International
Tribunal moves forward in looking at cases of those who bear
the greatest responsibility for the genocide, and that is
four trials: two government trials, and two military trials,
these are people who are going to be held responsible for
their acts by command responsibility. They themselves are
not rapists, but they were responsible. This language in the
media judgment, and the words " foreseeable consequence,"
allow us now to begin to build on that to make the links to
command responsibility, and ultimately hopefully to bring
some justice to women, and it is my hope that the tribunal
will rectify it' s shameful record that it had on the prosecution
of gender crimes, and use this judgment as a starting point
to bring justice to Rwandan women. Thank you.