‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’ – Edmund Burk
Dear learned friends,
I call on you today, painfully, because I have come to a point where I question my vocation, looking at the abuse that is consistently done in the name of justice, which we were all called to defend, and the law, which we took an oath to respect.
I am writing to you to inquire why in many instances you have stayed silent at best, or condone the injustice at worst.
On December 10th 1948, was adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the foundation upon which we draw our inspiration and our legitimacy.
By calling them Universal, this meant that mankind in its entirety adhered wholeheartedly to these principles, and individuals and peoples of all nations were to be protected by them. They are thus the benchmark against which we sanction actions of governments and others actors who bring harm to humans – and since recently, nature.
In this letter I want to use the Rwandan case as an illustration of the injustices that are done in the name of justice and the law.
While those who violate the law may not necessarily be lawyers, they claim to act within its ambits. We, as a community of Jurists, aught therefore, to speak out against their usurpation of our dear values, and thereby distance ourselves from them. Some of us, sadly are more preoccupied by our image, than the pursuit of the values that we embody.
On October 2nd 2014, the British Broadcasting Corporation aired a documentary that they called the ‘Untold Story’. The documentary, negated the genocide by reallocating the roles between victims, heroes and foes, by arbitrarily stumping on the Judgment of an International Court, followed by a UN Security Council Resolution to that effect: “‘Resolution 2150 of 16 April 2014, adding to the ICTR Judicial Notice of 15 June 2006 & the Akayesu Judgement of 2 September 98; Confirming the ‘Genocide against the Tutsi’”
The documentary, its producers explained, was a way of presenting a ‘fresh’ perspective to the public and they backed their claims by inter alia, citing indictments that were handed by a French Judge ‘Brugriere J’, against leaders of the former Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and current leaders of the Rwandan Government.
However, the producers of the film failed to mention that; ‘Trevidic J’, the successor of ‘Brugriere J’, had questioned and contradicted those indictments issued by the latter Justice.
Last Saturday, Scotland Yard announced the detention of the director general of Rwanda’s National Intelligence and Security Services, Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, while he travelled to London, United Kingdom. In their announcement Scotland Yard claimed that they were implementing ‘European arrest warrant on behalf of the authorities in Spain, where he is wanted in connection with war crimes against civilians”
The said arrest warrants resulted from indictments by a junior judge; Fernando Andreu Merelle; a Judge of the Public Audience in Spain, for, inter alia, crimes of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, as well as the killing of nine aid workers of Spanish nationality who were killed in Rwanda.
However, the said indictments were later overturned and thereby nullified by the High Court of Spain in the Judgment, which can be found here.
The producers of the documentary mentioned earlier, as well as the Police of the United Kingdom, based their actions on decisions that were made by old and lower jurisdictions, and failed to register their overturning by higher and newer judges.
To put things in perspective, that would be a little like two persons of the same sex being refused to wed in the State of Alabama based on an old judgment by a district Judge, and that, in spite of the decision just passed by the Supreme Court of the United States, allowing all Americans of the same sex to be legally married.
By these actions, the British government violated some of the most fundamental principles of law, including ‘Habeas Corpus’, ‘due process of the law’, ‘the right to a fair trial’, ‘presumption of innocence’ and more, all enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its Articles: 7(Equality before the law); 9(protection from arbitrary arrest); 10(fair hearing by independent & impartial Tribunal); 11(1) (Presumption of Innocence until proven guilty), 11(2) (Nullum Crimen, Nulla Poena Sine Lege); 13(Freedom of movement) and finally Article 28(Protection by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights); all now accepted as customary international law.
Now both the British Broadcaster, as well as the British Police may have acted on other hidden motives. Yet, they backed their actions by citing legal decisions – ours. Worse yet, some members of our community of Human Rights Activists and Jurists – if one exists – have openly supported their actions.
Now as a human rights lawyer or activist, my role is not to spend time making rejoinders on the work of learned friends. My time and energy are put to better use by promoting human rights in Rwanda and holding the Rwandan government accountable to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However in the face of perversion of the law for wanton oppression and denigration of ‘small’ nations and ‘poor’ people, one is compelled to make this call.
It is, I believe, our duty as legal practitioners and human rights activists, to take action in righting the wrong that is being done in our name.
And finally to quote John Carlin, a prominent El Pais Journalist in his article yesterday: ‘Judge Andreu will never arrive at the truth because the historical and political interpretation upon which his investigations rest is little more credible than the account Joseph Goebbels would have given of the Nazi role in Europe between 1939 and 1945. What would Spaniards say, one might ask, if a Rwandan judge decided to investigate the ‘genocide’ carried out during the Spanish Civil War and limited himself to itemizing the atrocities committed by the Republican side, presenting the Franquista side as innocent victims? What everyone would say: That it is a distortion of the truth, a scandal, a kind of madness and above all an absurdity.’
I call upon you today, to hold your ground and defend our vocation, defend the law, and defend Justice, especially for the most vulnerable. As Martin Luther King once said, ‘Injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.’
– Rwandan Bar Association;
– East African Law Society;
– International Commission of Jurists
Posted 30th June