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Opinion:

Stephen Rapp: Whitewashed Rwandan genocide to absolve US

The United States’ Global War Crimes Investigator Ambassador Stephen Rapp, head of the State Department's Office of Global Criminal Justice, was in Sri Lanka recently on a fact-finding mission in preparation for the UN Human Rights Commission session this March, which will scrutinise Sri Lanka's military engagement during the final months of its battle with Tiger terrorists.


Stephen Rapp

Rapp released a bombshell using Colombo's American Embassy Twitter account, posting in its web portal, identifying an area as the location where the Sri Lanka military used its firepower to kill thousands of Tamil civilians during those final battles with the LTTE.

This statement, in the official American Embassy web portal, was in fact a declaration that Sri Lanka committed war crimes and genocide.

Ambassador Rapp's visit comes ahead of the UN Human Rights Council Session due in early March in which the United States is expected to move a resolution on Sri Lanka, possibly asking for an international probe.

Rapp used ambiguous and conflicting information and data to accuse Sri Lanka of violating International Humanitarian Laws (IHL) in a report released to the US Congress in October 2009 about the military battle between the Government Forces and the Tamil Tiger fighting cadre during the final - January to May 2009 - stages of the battle.

Ambassador Rapp undertook his official tour in Sri Lanka in search of answers as to what happened during those five months and the Government's accountability and reconciliation process with very heavy baggage; his own culpability of covering-up Rwanda's 1994 genocide as an attempt to white-wash the United States involvement in that episode as the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations-appointed International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda (ICTR).

International laws

In October 1990, the Ugandan army and the Rwandan Patriotic Front/Army (RPF) led by Major General Paul Kagame (who is now the President of Rwanda) invaded Rwanda from Uganda. The guerrillas who violated international laws and committed massive war crimes were backed by Britain, Belgium, the United States and Israel, according to many investigators and researchers. By July 1994, the RPF completed its coup d'etat and consolidated its power in Rwanda.

On April 6, 1994, the governments of Rwanda and Burundi were decapitated when the plane carrying the two presidents and top military staff was shot down over Kigali, Rwanda's capital.

The well-planned assassinations of Juvenal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira sparked a massive escalation of warfare that is falsely portrayed as the result of meaningless tribal savagery. These assassinations were major war crimes, and the RPF was largely responsible, but almost every attempt to honestly investigate the double presidential assassinations has been blocked by the US and its allies.

Professor Peter Erlinder, of the William Mitchell College of Law in Pennsylvania (USA) who was very much involved in defending some at the ICTR which was functioning in Arusha in Tanzania, has come out with an array of evidence and interpretations of the direct culpability of the current Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the Rwandan genocide, how he and his colleagues were given military training in the US, how Kagame as the head of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a proxy force of the Pentagon according to Erlinder, invaded Rwanda to unleash a genocide with the tacit approval of the United States, and in the following years, how the United States took covert and overt steps to cover up its involvement in the Rwandan mass massacre.

US involvement

It is here that Ambassador-at Large Stephen Rapp's name emerges. Rapp, who was in Sri Lanka last week, and also in 2012 as the head of the State Department's Office of Global Criminal Justice, in his previous position as the chief prosecutor of the Rwandan genocide, according to Peter Elinder, and many other investigators, was one of the main persons who was involved in the cover-up of US involvement in the Rwandan Genocide.

Prof. Elinder outlined the United States endeavour in the cover-up of its own culpability in the Rwandan genocide, and the role played by Stephen Rapp as the Chief Rwanda Prosecutor of the United Nations.

He said: “The July 9, 2009 New York Times reported that the Obama administration had selected Stephen Rapp to replace the Bush administration Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes, Pierre Prosper. Rapp began his international career at the UN Security Council Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in 2001, while Carla Del Ponte was Chief Rwanda Prosecutor. Rapp's nomination just a few months after Del Ponte's of her memoir of her years as Chief UN Prosecutor, Madam Prosecutor: Confronting Humanity's Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity was published in English.

“Del Ponte's book describes in detail the systematic US-initiated cover-up of crimes by the current Rwandan government, a US ally, committed during the Rwanda Genocide, and how she was removed from her ICTR (International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda) position in 2003 by US Ambassador Prosper himself, when she refused to cooperate with the US-initiated ‘cover-up'.”

According to Del Ponte, her ICTR Office had the evidence to prosecute Kagame for “touching-off” the Rwanda Genocide by ordering the assassination of Rwanda's former President Juvenal Habyarimana, long before 2003.

She also details the dozens of massacre sites, involving thousands of victims, for which the current Rwandan President, Paul Kagame and his military should be prosecuted. The well-publicised canard, that “the identity of the assassins of Habyarimana is unknown” is a bald-faced lie, well-known by ICTR prosecutors, according to Del Ponte, writes Prof. Elinder in a popular/well-read web site Global Research.

Two years after Del Ponte was removed from office, Rapp became “Chief” of ICTR Prosecutions with access to all of the evidence known to Del Ponte, and more that has been made public in the past few years. During his four years at the ICTR, Ambassador Rapp, like Del Ponte, was in a position to prosecute Kagame and members of the current government of Rwanda, but not one member of Kagame's military has been prosecuted at the ICTR, to date... and the “cover-up” revealed by Del Ponte, continues today.

Coveted ambassadorship

Unlike, Del Ponte, who was fired by the US, Rapp was first rewarded with an appointment as Chief Prosecutor at the US-funded Sierra Leone Tribunal and now, a coveted ambassadorship by the Obama administration as the chief of the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the United States Department of State.

In February 2009, the ICTR issued its Judgment the Military-1 case, the main case at the ICTR, in which Rapp personally appeared for the Prosecution. Although massive violence did occur in Rwanda, the court certainly recognised that blaming only one side was a falsehood, when it acquitted all of the “architects of the killing machine” (as Rapp called the defendants in court) of conspiracy or planning to kill civilians. The highest ranking military-officer was acquitted of all charges.

And, although it is now clear from Del Ponte's memoirs that Rapp had the evidence to clear the ICTR defendants of the assassination charges and only the losing side has been blamed for all crimes committed in Rwanda in 1994. Simply put, Rapp and other ICTR prosecutors have withheld evidence that would be beneficial to the defence, contrary to Tribunal Rules; have prosecuted defendants for crimes they knew were committed by Kagame's forces; and, have created a system of “judicial impunity” that has permitted Kagame to kill millions in eastern Congo.

It is in this context that Prof. Peter Elinder, writing to Global Security, questioned US President Obama's wisdom in appointing Stephen Rapp as the head of the Office of War Crimes Issue (as was known before) at the State Department in this manner: “This ‘inconvenient-African-truth’ raises an uncomfortable question regarding President Obama's nomination of Rapp, in the first place: Are Obama and his advisers ignorant of the public record regarding Rapp's complicity in the ICTR Cover-up....or do they just not give a damn?”

Ambassador Rapp was also privy to the following information when he was the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTR:

The US Ambassador to Rwanda, and declassified US documents from 1994, establish that:

(a) The assassination of the President of Burundi in October 1993 triggered a “genocide of 150,000 Burundian Hutus;”

(b) Hundreds of thousands of Burundian Hutu refugees then poured into Rwanda;

(c) Rwandan Patriotic Front military aggression displaced 1.5 million Rwandans in early 1993; and

(d) The Rwandan Patriotic Front assassinated the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi in April 1994.

And, that these were the actual causes of the Rwanda Genocide.

Mass violence

The US Ambassador to Rwanda personally warned Kagame in November 1993 that if he resumed the war, he would be responsible for mass violence in Rwanda in 1994, like that in Burundi in 1993. This was confirmed by cables from the State Department on April 7, 1994;

UN documents show that the RPF was militarily dominant as of February 1993 and, according to UN Gen. Dallaire's cables to the UN in April-June 1994, Kagame refused to stop the violence because he was winning;

Del Ponte's 2009 memoirs document then Gen. Kagame's culpability for the assassination of the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi of April 6, 1994 that began the Rwandan Genocide, as does the 2008 indictment issued by Spanish Judge Fernando Abreu Merelles and the 2006 indictment of French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere;

The Spanish indictment also describes, prefecture-by-prefecture, 325,000 murders of Hutus and Tutsis for which Kagame and the RPF are responsible, not including the massive killing after 1994, in both Rwanda and neighbouring Congo;

The 2009-published Edward S. Herman and David Peterson's investigative/research book The Politics of Genocide said: "The United States and its allies worked hard in the early 1990s to weaken the Rwandan government, forcing the abandonment of many of the economic and social gains from the social revolution of 1959, thereby making the Habyarimana government less popular, and helping to reinforce the Tutsi minority's economic power.

"Eventually, the RPF was able to achieve a legal military presence inside Rwanda, thanks to a series of ceasefires and other agreements. These agreements led to the Arusha Peace Accords of August 1993, pressed upon the Rwandan government by the United States and its allies, called for the "integration" of the armed forces of Rwanda and (Kagame's) RPF, and for a "transitional," power-sharing government until national elections could be held in 1995.

These Peace Accords positioned the RPF for its bloody overthrow of a relatively democratic coalition government, and the takeover of the Rwandan state by a minority dictatorship."

The chief of the US State Department's Office of Global Criminal Justice Stephen Rapp knew this entire Rwandan episode, the US interests in Paul Kagame, the UN concealment of the 1994 report at the behest of the Clinton administration, the US military assistance to Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front and the entire exercise of the 'Rwandan cover-up' to conceal US culpability in the Rwandan genocide when he focused his attention elsewhere; Sri Lanka.

Courtesy: Asian Tribune

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