10.07.07 - ICTR/REGISTRY - APPROXIMATELY 250 000 WOMEN WERE RAPED DURING THE GENOCIDE-ICTR

Arusha, 10 July 2007 (FH) - Some 250 000 Rwandan women, primarily Tutsis, were raped during the genocide from April to July 1994, according to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha, Tanzania.   
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"It has been amply documented that approximately 250 000 Tutsi or moderate Hutu women were systematically raped and suffered sexual aggressions within the framework of the conspiracy of the genocide", indicates the June 2007 ICTR newsletter.
 
According to the Rwandan Association of Widows of the Genocide (AVEGA), a third of these raped women during the genocide acquired the AIDS virus as a result of their aggressions.
 
Some of these victims came to the ICTR to tell, within the framework of prosecution testimonies, this painful experience.
 
This kind of testimony is generally done in anonymity, the witness being hidden from the public by a curtain.
 
When it is needed, testimony can be heard entirely in closed session.
 
These victims having testified before the ICTR benefit from a certain socio-medical and psychological assistance provided by the Tribunal, according to the newsletter.
 
But those who never meet with the Tribunal authorities must fight, almost all alone and in silence, against the after-effects of the rapes.
 
During a visit to the United Nations and to the ICTR last June, Theodore Simburudali, president of Ibuka, the principal organization of genocide survivors and Mrs. Bellancilla Umukobwa, president of AVEGA, challenged the international community on the fate of these victims.
 
In fact, the ICTR which, like other ad hoc tribunals did not envisage a place for civil parties, conducts trials but does not compensate.
 
"The victims live in inhuman living conditions (...) it is more than time to do something", wrote Mr. Simburudali and Mrs. Umukobwa in a letter to the UN Secretary-General.
 
"The United Nations only worried about the repression of the guilty", added the letter.
 
If it does not repair the damage committed, the ICTR can be, however, proud to be the first international court to have established the precedent according to which rape, when it is committed in the intention to eliminate, in all or partly, a racial or ethnic group, constitutes a crime of genocide or a crime against humanity.
 
Of the 28 people convicted to date by the ICTR, four were in particular found guilty of rape which they committed personally or to which they were not opposed as they were informed of it, according to the ICTR.
 
Of these convicted, it is a former Councilor in Kibuye (western Rwanda), Mika Muhimana, who became the most infamous after being found guilty of having raped 8 women.
 
Among the defendants still on trial, appears Mrs. Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, the former Minister of Family and Women Welfare, accused of having incited rape. She has pleaded not guilty.
 
ER/MM/AT
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