the mapping report release
Today marks the long-awaited release of the official version of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Democratic Republic of Congo Mapping Report on human rights abuses committed in the country between 1993-2003. Most of the fireworks on this have already passed given the leak of a draft version of the report over a month ago, but the significance of today cannot be overstated.
According to the Associated Press, the final version of the report is largely unchanged, although apparently the genocide language has been tempered to something more cautious. That it remained mostly unchanged huge, not only because the draft version accused the Rwandan government of perpetrating large-scale abuses against Hutus in Zaire/Congo during the first DRC war, but also because it implicates a number of DRC's neighbors in very serious human rights abuses.
A few key points as the discussion takes off today:
- Rwanda has provided comments on the final draft, including seven objections to the report's claims about its role in the DRC. These range from disagreements about historical context, the report's methodology, evidentiary standards, the use of anonymous sources, and contradictory reports regarding the presence of Hutu fighters in the Zaire refugee camps, and that the genocide charge is contradictory to Rwanda's repatriation of Hutus into Rwanda.
- I would note that none of the above are valid claims. That the Rwandan government did repatriate Hutus does not mean they did not also slaughter Hutus in Zaire. Additionally, the fact that Hutu militants were using the refugee camps as a base to attack Rwanda (a claim no one disputes) did not give the Rwandan army the right to hunt down and slaughter those individuals, especially when they clearly could have arrested and put many of those genocidaires on trial. The methodology and standards for admission of evidence were solid, and the use of anonymous sources is standard (and the only ethical way to do it) in cases involving human rights abuses.
- Uganda is angry over the report as well. All countries implicated in the mapping report were given the chance to respond, and it's important to remember that almost every group involved in the DRC wars is responsible for human rights violations at one point or another. Taking a page from Rwanda's playbook, Ugandan government officials have attacked the report's methodology and sources.
- Not surprisingly, Burundi has also objected to its inclusion in the report.
- To reiterate, nothing in the mapping report was really unknown. There were witnesses to almost all of the violence at the time and humanitarian actors in the region were acutely aware of what was going on, but previous efforts to provide a comprehensive accounting of human rights abuses in the DRC wars were stymied by various parties over the years. This happened most notably with the never-released 1994 Gersony Report - see Howard French and Jeffrey Gettleman's piece on it here. UN bureaucratic wrangling aside, the central point stands: none of this is new.
- (By the way, I'm with Wronging Rights: Howard French deserves an award for not writing, "I told you so" in his current work on the story he covered as it happened. French reported most of these events from the field at the time and is at long last getting some validation for his excellent work. Give him a Pulitzer already.)
- Claims like those of Raymond Bonner, writing at The Atlantic a couple of weeks ago, that suggest that the abuses were the work of rogue soldiers defy all the evidence. Bonner implies that all is really needed is for the involved soldiers to be punished. But Rwanda's activities in Zaire/Congo were very deliberate, and were clearly conceived and coordinated at the very highest levels. This is not My Lai.
- At some point, Rwanda's most vocal defenders, including Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Philip Gourevitch, and Rick Warren, are going to have to deal with the reality reflected in the report. There are ways to help Rwanda's people that don't involve supporting the antidemocratic, authoritarian RPF regime. And if anyone is creative enough to figure those out, it's these guys.
- Jason Stearns has analysis with an eye to possible legal scenarios here. Keep in mind that outcomes on this question will be contingent on what actors throughout the region have to lose from a tribunal. Since many, many, many, many, many, many politicians throughout the Great Lakes region would be in trouble were witnesses to take to the stand, I'm pretty cynical that any tribunal will really be able to deal with the abuses outlined in the mapping report. But stranger things have happened.
- Wronging Rights covers the legal issues surrounding this in great detail here.
- It appears that Rwanda will not withdraw its peacekeepers from Darfur as threatened. I'd be interested to know what role Clinton played in mediating between Ban and Kagame on this issue.
- Acknowledging that the RPF is responsible for horrible crimes in the Congo is not the same as wanting Rwanda to be destroyed. I feel like any reasonable person would agree with that, but some commenters on this blog will claim otherwise, so I feel a need to get that out of the way. No one wants Rwanda to fall apart again. No one.
(BTW, you should totally read today's New Times editorial, which is a paean to the RPF, which invaded Rwanda from Uganda twenty years ago today. Oh, the irony.)
UPDATE: The full report, comments from Angola, Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and the press releases are available here.
UPDATE #2: Human Rights Watch statement on the mapping report is here. "Human Rights Watch supports the establishment of a mixed chamber, with jurisdiction over past and current war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Congo."
UPDATE #3: Reed Brody, a member of the 1997 UN team that investigated these atrocities and whose report was suppressed, weighs in. Money quote: "By seeking to quash publication of the report, the Rwandan government is raising further questions about what it may be trying to hide."
UPDATE #4: Jason Stearns weighs in here. Official DRC response here.
UPDATE #5: A great roundup and personal reflection from @sonjasugira is here. Amnesty International's statement is here.
UPDATE #6: Colum Lynch parses the differences between the leaked draft and the final report here. MSF France has a statement (in French) on the report here. This is important as MSF is named several times in the report as a source; the statement as I read it is aimed at clarifying the fine line MSF (like many other organizations) walks in remaining neutral while drawing attention to serious human rights abuses.
UPDATE #7: Rwanda's New Times government daily weighs in with a hissy fit of an editorial that, while not exactly factual, is mighty entertaining. A choice quote: "There are several reports that were sponsored by unfriendly countries that always falsely accused the Government of Rwanda of exploiting DRC minerals. Rwanda is rich in mineral deposits and there is no need of illegal exploitation of minerals in other countries." Sure. Except for the fact that it is a well-established fact that Rwanda is not rich in mineral deposits, but that's just a detail, right guys?