Brandeis University, Philosophy Department
Spring 2008
Brandeis University Web Stite

Philosophy 19A

Human Rights

Professor Andreas Teuber
Prof. Teuber


Humanitarian Intervention

On April 6, 1994, Rwanda's long-time President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundi's new President, Cyprien Ntaryamira, who had just taken office, were returning together in Habyarimana's plane to Kigali, Rwanda's capital, when the plane was apparently hit by rocket fire. It came crashing down in the garden of the Presidential palace, and both Presidents were killed. Habyarimana's death ended twenty-three years of despotic rule. He seized power in 1973. He was a Hutu - the Hutus, mostly peasant farmers, make up eighty-five percent of the population. It looked like he would be relatively magnanimous toward the Tutsis, who had been the ruling class before independence. As it turned out, however, Habyarimana presided over a sort of black-on-black apartheid, with "tribal" identity cards and an ethnic quota system that limited Tutsis' access to schools and jobs.

VIDEO Excerpts from "Ghosts of Rwanda" (PBS)

At first everyone thought that the plane had been shot down by the insurgent Rwandan Patriotic Front, but the killers may have been extremists in Habyarimana's own party. Within hours of Habyarimana's death, a massive slaughter of Tutsis, Hutu opposition leaders, and Hutu moderates reportedly began. All indications were that the killings were being carried out by Habyarimana's Presidential Guard and drink-and-marajuana crazed young members of Habyarimana's Party known as interahamwe - "those who think together, attack together."

First Ten Minutes of "Ghosts of Rwanda" (PBS)

In Gisenyi, a city on Lake Kivu, bordering Zaire, reliable reports indicated that thousands of Tutsis and Hutu moderates have been butchered. Thousands of corpses washed into Lake Victoria. Bleached, bloated, mutilated bodies floated by on the Kagera River which describes the border between Rwanda and Tanzania at the rate of one every five minutes. According to an Ugandan official, the people who buried the first few bodies became "mentally deranged." At a hospital in Butare, Rwanda's second-largest city, a hundred and seventy staff members and patients were killed by the interahamwe in front of foreign doctors. The transitional Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, a Hutu who supported the Arusha Accords was hideously murdered and her Belgian United Nations guards were tortured to death. Throughout the country the panga (or machete) is the murder weapon of choice, but screwdrivers, saws, hammers, and hatchets were also used. A full panga job took about twenty minutes. First the hands were chopped off, then deep gashes were scored in the back, and finally the head was whacked. If you prefer a quick death, by a bullet, you had to pay for it. The going rate was five thousand Rwandan francs, or about thirty-five dollars. Video footage was smuggled out of the country showing interahamwe stopping citizens on a road, checking their identity cards, and executing those who were Tutsis on the spot.

How the Genocide Happened (BBC)

The New York Times reported that Hutu Radio was calling on the Hutus to take revenge on the Tutsis and all Tutsi sympathizers: "When you are killing the wives, don't spare those who are pregnant," the station urged. "The mistake we made in 1959 was not to kill the children. Now they have come back to fight us." Apparently, among the most common massacre sites were Churches in which the Tutsis tried to take sanctuary. According to one report, some Hutu interhamwe burst into a church and asked the priest if he was a Hutu or a Tutsi. The priest was a Hutu, but this was impossible to tell from his nose or his height, and he said "I am a member of the human race." The interahamwe thereupon chopped him into pieces.

Leave None to Tell the Story (HRW)

During the next thirty days the full horror of what was happening in Rwanda continued to unfold. According to Human Rights Watch/Africa, there were one million one hundred thousand Tutsis in Rwanda before April 6th and if the killing was not stopped all of them would be slaughtered. Only those who fled the country would survive. But to make a horrible situation even worse all the exits were sealed.

Timeline: 100 Days of Slaughter (PBS)

Rwanda is a small country (the size of Vermont) and was easily administered if you are planning to commit genocide. The west is blocked by Lake Kivu and those who tried to escape into Zaire and Tanzania found the borders closed. Payments seemed to have been made to the governors of the adjacent provinces not to let any Tutsis out. Tens of thousands of Tutsis from Kigali fled south, hoping to escape to Burundi, but were unable to reach the border. Tens of thousands were trapped in seminaries and stadiums unable to get out of the country but were also unable to return to their homes for fear of being hacked to death. There was a well confirmed report that thirty-eight thousand Tutsis were trapped in the Catholic compound in Kabgayi. Then all those who were trapped were also killed. Within less than 100 days "some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu [were slaughtered] by Hutu soldeirs and volunteer civilian butchers controlled by the Hutu government."

Samantha Powers: "Bystanders to Genocide" The Atlantic

As Samantha Powers who was the first executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government has noted: "It was the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century."

Interview with Philip Gourevitch

Powers continues: "A few years later, in a series in The New Yorker, recount[ing] in horrific detail the story of the genocide and the world's failure to stop it, President Bill Clinton, a famously avid reader, expressed shock. He sent copies of [the] articles to his second-term national-security adviser, Sandy Berger. The articles bore confused, angry, searching queries in the margins. "Is what he's saying true?' Clinton wrote with a thick black felt-tip pen beside heavily underlined paragraphs. 'How did this happen?' he asked, adding, 'I want to get to the bottom of this.' . . . Why did the United States not do more for the Rwandans at the time of the killings? Did the President really not know about the genocide, as his marginalia suggested? Who were the people in his Administration who made the life-and-death decisions that dictated U.S. policy? Why did they decide (or decide not to decide) as they did? Were any voices inside or outside the U.S. government demanding that the United States do more? If so, why weren't they heeded? And most crucial, what could the United States have done to save lives?"

Interview with Iqbal Riza

"In March of 1998," Powers continues, "on a visit to Rwanda, President Clinton issued what would later be known as the 'Clinton Apology,' which was actually a carefully hedged acknowledgment. He spoke to the crowd assembled on the tarmac at Kigali Airport":

We come here today partly in recognition of the fact that we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred in Rwanda.

Interview with James Woods

What could, what should the United States and the United Nations have done? If you were by some miraculous twist of fate in the President's shoes, what would you have done or what do you think needed to happen and/or needs to happen so such a failure to respond to genocide, to "murder on a mass scale," never happens again?"

Interview with Tony Marley

Or perhaps you think the U. N. and U.S. response to the genocide in Rwanda were entirely appropriate and you are ready to defend the lack of response.

Interview with Colonel Luc Marchal

But whichever way you find that you are leaning, offer what you believe is the best defense for inaction or action by the United Nations and/or the United States to save lives in Rwanda in 1994, think of the most powerful objections that someone might raise to the arguments you offer in support of your position, and respond to them.

C.I.A. Rwanda Fact Book

Underlying or hanging over these questions are any number of general questions that many have asked and that are by no means easy to answer, questions you may wish to have at the back of your mind when you try to sort out in your own mind what you think the United States and the United Nations should have done in this instance:

The Crime of Genocide

"What, if anything, should the international community have done to stop the carnage?

Rwanda: The Forgotten Genocide (Part I)

Did it have a moral duty to intervene?

Rwanda: The Massacre (French)

Did it have a legal right to do so?

Rwanda: The Forgotten Genocide (Part II)

What should individual states or a coalition of states within the international community and outside Rwanda have done if the U. N. Security Council had refused to authorize a military intervention?

Rwanda: The Forgotten Genocide (Part III)

And if states or a coalition of states had a moral duty to intervene are there any political considerations that override that duty?"

Failed Somalia Mission

In the course of making your arguments, you may wish to consider some of the common explanations that are given in defense of a policy non-intervention:

    (a) Humanitarian Intervention on behalf of human rights is a threat to world peace and stability.

    (b) Humanitarian Intervention on behalf of human rights is a matter that requires impartiality on the part of those who carry it out and States cannot be trusted to do the job properly. States are neither altruistic nor impartial.

    (c) Humanitarian Intervention on behalf of human rights cannot be justified because intervening States lack the information necessary to carry out the operation. States can never know what's best for the citizens of another State.

    (d) Humanitarian Intervention on behalf of human rights is not justifiable even in those cases where the freedom of the citizens of another State is seriously threatened and in those cases where there is a real threat that many, many lives will be lost because the people of each and every State have the right to determine their own fate and intervention deprives them of the opportunity to struggle for their own freedom and acquire the virtues of good citizenship necessary to the establishment and maintenance of free and secure political institutions.

Map of Rwanda

And do you agree or disagree with the following "We should all be concerned with the fate of human rights everywhere, but a foreign policy constrained by considerations of human rights only makes matters politically and morally worse. It is only an arrogant attempt by one country to impose its peculiar values and practices on other cultures with different experiences and traditions. What right does any country have to set itself up as a model, to be so righteous? A foreign policy constrained by considerations of human rights is only a thinly, an all too thinly, disguised form of cultural expansion, a form, if you will, of moral imperialism."

Rwanda: Before the Genocide

Would this sort of criticism apply in the Rwandan case? If so, why? If not, why not?

Rwanda: The Genocide

Or perhaps you think there is a more general Principle of Non-Intervention that ought to apply in cases such as the case of Rwanda in 1994? Does such a principle exist among States? The Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (adopted in 1970 by the General Assembly) has this to say: "No State or group of States has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly, for any reason whatever, in the internal or external affairs of any other State. Consequently, armed intervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threats against the personality of the State or against its political, economic and cultural elements, are in violation of international law."

Rwanda: After the Genocide

Does this put the matter as you see it?

Rwanda: Witness to the Genocide

You may, too, wish to consider other arguments that were given at the time for not intervening to put a stop to the bloodshed in Rwanda, among them, that the United Nations and the United States were "powerless" or that the "relevant players" within these two bodies "just did not know" what was going on or found out "too late" and so were helpless to intervene in a way that would have made a difference.

Rwanda: Psychology and Politics





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