The United States as an Essential Forum for Litigating the Genocide in Rwanda
Author Draft; publication - In the Shadow of Genocide (co-editor), Forthcoming
41 Pages Posted: 1 Sep 2015
Date Written: June 19, 2015
While the majority of the current population of Rwanda was born after the bleakest chapter of Rwandan history, the vestiges of the genocide remain, affecting much of the present social and political discourse in Rwanda. Traditional criminal legal systems are no more equipped to deal with such mass atrocities than are individuals. As a result, unique transitional justice mechanisms were implemented, including the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the gacaca, government-established grassroots tribunals based in name and in form, to a certain degree, on traditional tribal dispute resolution mechanisms. Other countries, including the United States, have served as forums for additional litigation involving the genocide.
This chapter introduces a wide compilation of United States federal cases, involving various aspects of the genocide, and compares and contrasts issues identified in the federal cases with those at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and, to a lesser degree, those in Rwandan national courts and the gacaca. Upon review of the relevant federal cases, one sees that the United States courts, despite significant challenges, provide a unique and occasionally only possible forum for obtaining novel information and evidentiary determinations about the genocide and more recent political concerns in Rwanda. Although U.S. courts lack experience with the genocide, they do not have the potential biases found in other jurisdictions.
As a result of U.S. litigation, many victims have seen a perpetrator convicted or found liable for their unfathomable conduct. Others have been protected from coerced confessions or improper deportation. Various judicial determinations may serve as precedent or persuasive authority in future U.S. and international litigation. Ultimately, some measure of justice has been provided to those affected by the genocide that would not have been otherwise available.
JEL Classification: K14, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation