Justice Oversees Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda Since 2002, Hassan Bubacar Jallow has served as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Justice Jallow talks about his tenure on the court, which has jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
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Justice Oversees Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda

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Justice Oversees Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda

Justice Oversees Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda

Justice Oversees Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda

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Since 2002, Hassan Bubacar Jallow has served as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Justice Jallow talks about his tenure on the court, which has jurisdiction over war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.


For the past seven years, Hassan Jallow has served as the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The court was established by the United Nations to investigate and prosecute people responsible for the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Justice Jallow is on a visit to the United States to deliver the Distinguished Lecture in International Justice and Human Rights at Brandeis University this afternoon.

If you'd like to speak with him about what the tribunal has accomplished, what it hasn't, and what he's learned about what happened in Rwanda and why, give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Justice Hassan Jallow joins us now from a studio in Watertown, Massachusetts. And welcome to TALK OF THE NATION.

Mr. HASSAN JALLOW (Chief Prosecutor, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda): Thank you very much.

CONAN: And I guess one of the questions that we have to ask is that what happened in Rwanda seems to be inexplicable to so many people, that this kind of mass murder, hundreds of thousands of people butchered. What have you learned about human nature?

Mr. JALLOW: Well, this is explicable in a way in that these mass atrocities always seem to be linked - to be the result, actually, of bad government. It's the same story as what happened in Germany just before and during the Second World War, the same as what happened in Yugoslavia and in other places as a result of bad governance, massive abuse of human rights, and the instigation by an elite that is in power for people turn against a minority. It is really the same story of genocide and targeting of minorities and plans to exterminate them.

CONAN: And it was something that was instigated. It was not spontaneous.

Mr. JALLOW: It was - certainly wasn't spontaneous. Rwanda had had a series of such attacks against the minority Tutsis over a long period of time. Nothing on the scale of what happened in 1994, but they were certainly not sudden, not spontaneous, and the signs were there for everybody to see.

CONAN: And there are so many incidents and so many individuals that have come before the court there in Tanzania. Of them, how do you begin to allocate responsibility? Do you have to look at specific instances?

Mr. JALLOW: Well, we had to draw up our criteria for selecting targets for prosecution. In a situation of this mass atrocity, we can't prosecute everybody. We had to concentrate on those people who were the ringleaders, and we develop criteria for identifying them. We looked at the status of the people - of the suspects. We looked at the nature of the offenses involved. We looked at the extent of participation, et cetera.

And using those criteria, we were then able to focus on 93 persons who, in our view, had been the leading perpetrators of the genocide, from the planners to the executioners. And those are the people we indicted at the Rwanda tribunal.

CONAN: And how many have now been tried?

Mr. JALLOW: We've finished the cases of about 50 of them now, many only now pending judgment. And we expect - we've started the cases of all the remaining detainees, save two of them, who were only recently arrested.

CONAN: There are still some people who are fugitives, though?

MR. JALLOW: We have still 11 fugitives outstanding whom we are looking for all over the world. We are optimistic that we would be able to arrest some of them before we close down. But the important thing, of course, is that there is no time limit for the prosecution of these crimes. If and when the tribunal closes, they will continue to be looked for, and they will be brought to justice either at the national level or at an international level.

CONAN: Your mandate is set to expire in 2010. But the work, do you think, the bulk of the trials you've got left, can that be finished by then?

Mr. JALLOW: We will finish the bulk of the trials by the end of 2010, then we will still have the appeals to deal with, which I expect will proceed - continue up to early 2013, and then we will finish. And depending on how many of the 11 fugitives we arrest, as well, it depends if we do pick up any of them who need to be tried at Arusha, then the trial program may continue beyond 2010.

CONAN: The tribunal, as I'm sure you know, in its early years, was criticized for not going after the big names and not doing things quickly enough. One of our correspondents in Africa, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, told us that in the past 12 months, tribunal seems to have revved up and suddenly, some very big names have been convicted and sentenced or arrested and brought to the court in Arusha. Would you agree with that? And if so, what happened?

Mr. JALLOW: Well, the (unintelligible) were difficult. I mean, they were basically experimental not just for the Rwanda tribunal but also for the Yugoslav tribunal. Because the last time, the world community tried anything like this was 50 years ago in Nuremberg. After the experimental state, the (unintelligible) stage because things have picked up considerably.

We have been able to indict senior figures who were in government, in the military, in the public administration and many of them. Almost all of them, actually, have been arrested except, as we said, (unintelligible), and many of them have had their cases concluded now.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation.

Our guest is Hassan Jallow, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which is based in Arusha in Tanzania. He's in this country to deliver a lecture in internal justice and human rights at Brandeis University this afternoon.

800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Josh is on the line from South Bend in Indiana.

JOSH (Caller): Hi. Thank you very much for having me on. My question is, I remember during the Darfur incidents and the Rwandan genocide that there was a lot of protests and funds raised, you know, donate money to stop the genocide. I just want to ask your esteemed guest how effective these international non-government organizations are in preventing and stopping genocides?

Mr. JALLOW: I think the international NGOs are indispensible partners in the struggle against genocide, against mass crime and in the struggle for accountability. There's got to be a partnership between governments and NGOs and the rest of civil society. NGOs help us prick the conscience of mankind, prick the conscience of governments and push governments into action. They do help us at a technical level with a lot of information, which we then try to convert into evidence to be able to prosecute our cases. They are very useful and effective partners.

JOSH: Well, thank you very much for having me on and please keep up the good work.

CONAN: Josh, thanks very much.

Mr. JALLOW: Thanks very much.

CONAN: The caller mentioned Darfur, which, of course, some people would say is continuing to this day. Given that, do you think the tribunal that investigated and is now punishing those responsible for instigating and carrying out the genocide in Rwanda, has it had an effect? Has it deterred other people, do you think?

Mr. JALLOW: I don't know. I can't say it has deterred. But, certainly, one can say it has succeeded in that it has helped to account, before courts of law, people who, in the past, might have escaped.

Secondly, I think the work of the international tribunals has also demonstrated to the rest of the war community that international justice is possible and it is absolutely necessary. That is why we've moved on from the ad hoc systems now, to the international criminal court, which is a permanent court and we just taken over responsibility for ensuring that justice is done in the Sudanese situation. In that sense, the ad hocs have had some influence and positive influence on the situation in the Sudan and in other places as well.

CONAN: Let's get another caller on. This is Zach(ph), Zach calling us from Madison, Wisconsin.

ZACH (Caller): Yeah. How are you guys doing today?

CONAN: Very well, thanks. Go ahead.

ZACH: I just wanted to say that I remember during the Rwandan Genocide, there was some pretty vitriolic radio talk going on, and I'm seeing more and more in that here in the United States with some increasingly polarizing statements being made. And they seem to kind of speak with impunity and dehumanize people. And it seems like there were some pretty terrible effects there in Rwanda, and people say these things and then don't expect people to act on them. And I wonder if you have any advice for us or any thoughts on radio acting with that kind of impunity in general?

CONAN: I'm not sure how much American radio Hassan Jallow has - had the chance to hear. And from what I've read on what was on the radio in Rwanda, the situations are really not comparable, Zach. But tell us about the role that the radio broadcast played in Rwanda.

Mr. JALLOW: You're right. I can't see anything about the American media situation.

But in Rwanda in 1994, we had a situation where the radio (unintelligible) and certain news people where directly inciting people to commit violence, acts of violence, murder against the Tutsi population. We did arrest some of the leaders from the media and prosecuted them and they've been convicted and are now serving long sentences of imprisonment.

The point is that that the court was making today, was that the right of the freedom of expression is a sacred right of every individual, but it should not be abused in order to violate the rights of others or to commit criminal offenses, and that's why we had to prosecute them for using this media, this right - the freedom of expression to actually commit criminal offenses, to incite people to break the law. We have prosecuted them in what we call the media case - members of the print media and also the radio - and had convictions entered against them.

CONAN: Was this an entirely one-sided affair? Some questioned what role President Paul Kagame's RPF party and then the rebellion - did they play in provoking the genocide.

Mr. JALLOW: The mandate of the tribunal is to prosecute, actually, all Rwandans who are seriously engaged in genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. During - parallel to the genocide, there was a military conflict between Paul Kagame's RPF and the then government. And we have received - and we have been investigating allegations that the RPF, which was Kagame's then rebel army�

CONAN: Right.

Mr. JALLOW: �also committed violations. I do know that the half - the Rwandan government has prosecuted some senior military officers in connection with those reports. We also investigated and established one particular incident where some members of (unintelligible) were killed by soldiers at the time. And we've ensured that they were prosecuted in Rwanda as well. So it's a matter which is within the mandate of the tribunal and we have been looking into things also (unintelligible)

CONAN: And your (unintelligible)

Mr. JALLOW: �genocide, where more than one million people were slaughtered.

CONAN: Our guest, Hassan Jallow, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribune for Rwanda, which is based in Arusha, in Tanzania. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's see if we can get Greg on the line, Greg with us from Spokane.

GREG (Caller): Thanks for taking my call. I love your show. My question is given the - even though you are prosecuting the ring leaders, how can any society come to a peace in the aftermath of such an atrocity when there are so many people who are living across the street or down the street from the people that they know killed their families? How can any culture move on from that?

Mr. JALLOW: You're right. It's an extremely difficult challenge to meet. I mean, post-conflict reconstruction requires - not just legal justice - You have to move in with a combination of strategies; legal justice to all to account people who are in leadership positions and who use these positions to commit crimes. You need to have reconciliation mechanisms, to try and get people to live together again across the street - victims and survivors and perpetrators who live across each other in the same street to be able to live together again. And you have to have other mechanisms for recalling the truth, establishing what precisely happened. So you need a combination of factors, not just legal justice because you're not concerned just with accountability, but you also have to have reconciliation in order to preserve the harmony of the community.

CONAN: Greg, thanks very much for the call.

GREG: Thanks.

CONAN: Let's go next to Nivan(ph). Nivan in Charlotte.

NIVAN (Caller): Hey there. Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Go ahead.

NIVAN: I've traveled to Tanzania a few times, and I've actually been to the International Criminal Court. And I'm just wondering, I know that it's taken many years and it's planned to take a lot longer. And I know that they've put a lot of resources into that - into the tribunals and just visiting the people of Tanzania and knowing that the people of East Africa don't have anywhere near those resources. I'm just wondering if you think that it's justified to spend that much money and they're really getting that much done, or if they could be spending those resources on reconstruction in Rwanda and other people in Tanzania.

CONAN: Nivan, you're saying the court building and the - its associated facilities are - forgive me for the word, palatial compared to the surroundings?

NIVAN: Absolutely. I mean, there are homeless people who sleep on the street right outside of the court, and the street next to - across the old Moshi(ph) road. And I'm just wondering if�

CONAN: I just wanted to get a better picture of it and allow the chief prosecutor to answer.

NIVAN: Sorry. Go ahead.

Mr. JALLOW: Thank you. It is true. The United Nations has spent, over the 15 years of our existence, a lot of resources on the court, and it has taken time. We have continuously been improving our systems to speed up the process and also to reproduce costs. But the process of legal justice clearly has to be undertaken. Maybe it's a question of trying to do at a reasonable cost, but it has to be undertaken. There are other challenges, nonetheless, in the community: poverty, ill health, which also requires resources. And the other community, we have to sort of allocate resources to each of those sectors, given the amounts that are available. But legal justice also must be proceeded with in a way that is not unnecessarily expensive.

CONAN: Nivan, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it. And let's see if we can go, finally, to Patty. Patty, with us from Bend, Oregon.

PATTY (Caller): Hi. Fascinating program. My question is one of a personal nature for your guest. How in the world do you deal with all of your feelings about what you read about, hear about, know about and what happened in your country. How did you ever deal with that?

CONAN: Hassan Jallow is from the Gambia. He is not from Rwanda, but the question still pertains.

PATTY: Yes. Thank you.

Mr. JALLOW: Yes. Well, when you - at the tribunal you read these cases, you hear witnesses speaking, victims, survivors, people who were present at these scenes. You hear terrible stories about what happened and some of the worst things come - worst things in people come out. But at the same time also, you come across great stories of the best coming out in people - people who also put their lives at risk to save others, people who tried to provide safety and sanctuary to potential victims.

More than a million Tutsis were killed, but along with them also perished hundreds of thousands of others who were not Tutsis, who were only fighting, actually, to prevent the killing of these millions. So you have the best and the very good coming out of this tragedy. There's a - those are lessons you learned from what we see. It's not all just that - it's a horrible story. But you also see the best side of human beings at the same time.

CONAN: Patty, thanks very much for the call. Appreciate it.

PATTY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And Justice Jallow, thank you very much for your time today.

Mr. JALLOW: Thank you very much, it's a pleasure talking to you. Thank you.

CONAN: Hassan Jallow, chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, based in Arusha in Tanzania, with us today from studios in Watertown, Massachusetts. He delivers a lecture at Brandeis later today. This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

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