Commission of Inquiry: International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda Since October 1, 1990
Charter: No formal charter
Report: Public report
Commission of Inquiry: International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda Since October 1, 1990 (Commission internationale d’enquête sur les violations des droits de l’homme au Rwanda depuis le 1er Octobre 1990)
Dates of Operation: Early January – March 8, 1993 (3 months, with two weeks, January 7 – 21, spent inside Rwanda)
Background: A Civil War began in Rwanda in October 1990 when the Tutsi led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) invaded Rwanda from bases in Uganda. The Hutu-led Rwandan government of President Juvénal Habyarimana attacked minority Tutsi populations, while the RPF attacked numerous civilian targets and reportedly recruited child soldiers. A ceasefire agreement was reached in July 1992, and the war officially ended on August 4, 1993 with the signing of the Arusha Accords, which created a power-sharing government.
In late 1992, numerous Rwandan civil society groups demanded the establishment of a commission of inquiry. They formed a coalition (Comité de Liaison des Associations de Défense des Droits de l’Homme au Rwanda) and appealed to the international community for assistance with an investigation. Four international NGOs (the International Federation of Human Rights, Africa Watch, the Inter African Union for Human Rights and the Rights of Peoples, and the International Center for the Rights of the Individual and the Development of Democracy) responded and created a non-official international commission of inquiry. In spring 1994, however, the assassination of President Habyarimana led to the even greater violence of the Rwandan genocide, which suspected the earlier violence.
Charter: There was no official founding charter; the commission was formed by mutual agreement of Rwandan civil society groups and the four international NGOs. President Habyarimana sent a welcome letter to the commission prior to its arrival in Rwanda. The same day, however, another letter was issued by the secretary of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development – the political party of Habyarimana – suggesting that the inquiry was interfering with Rwandan domestic politics. The commission noted in its report that with few exceptions, the commissioners enjoyed the cooperation of the authorities and the RPF.
Mandate: The International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda was formed to investigate human rights violations in Rwanda by RPF and government forces between October 1, 1990 and the formation of the commission in early 1993.
Commissioners and Structure: The international commission was composed of ten members, including nine men and one woman, from eight different countries. It was supported by a secretariat that included translators and forensic experts. Members of the commission were proposed and selected by the involved international and Rwandese NGOs.
Report: The International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda reported its findings in March 1993 based on investigations of civilian deaths during Rwanda’s civil war beginning in October 1990. The four international groups sponsoring the Commission distributed the final report (PDF-15658KB) (in French, with a short summary in English, pg. 127-134 of the PDF).
- Based on visits to five out of eleven prefectures and several hundred written and oral testimonies, the commission documented 2,000 killings, and an unspecified number of attacks on civilians, including kidnappings and other violations.
- Both the Rwandan state and the RPF were found to be responsible for human rights violations. According to the commission, the Rwandan state committed acts of genocide, and its violations were massive and systematic, with the deliberate intent to attack the Tutsi ethnic group, as well as opponents of the regime. The commission concluded that the Head of State and his immediate entourage should be held accountable.
- The commission found that conditions in detention facilities were extremely poor, and torture and mistreatment were common. The commission also denounced harassment and violations against journalists and displaced persons.
- The commission concluded that the concentration of executive power in the hands of the President created conditions conducive to abuses.
- The commission urged the President of Rwanda to commit to peace and human rights and protection by the State for all Rwandans, demanding that the armed militia (known as Interahmwe) of the Mouvement Révolutionnaire Nationale pour le Développement (MRND) be immediately dissolved and that all infractions against human rights be prosecuted.
- The commission recommended that the government disband all militias, provide legal remedies against violations, and continue the investigation of mass graves.
- The Commission further urged the RPF to stop all attacks against civilians and asked the international community to be more watchful of Rwanda and to cease delivery of all military aid.
- The day after the commission left Rwanda, government forces began killing and murdered an estimated 300 to 500 individuals, some of whom gave testimony to the commission.
- The government “recognized and regretted” the abuses that took place and promised a ten-point set of reforms reflecting the recommendations of the Commissions. At the same time however, the government supported the creation of four new human rights groups with the goal to denounce the report — all with names and acronyms similar to the four organizations that participated in the creation of the Commission.
- No prosecutions resulted from the International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and domestic trials were initiated only after the 1994 genocide, and the crimes investigated by the earlier commission are not part of the temporal jurisdiction of the ICTR.
Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. "Justice in Perspective - Africa - Rwanda International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda." Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation. Available at http://www.justiceinperspective.org.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=61 (accessed June 30, 2008).
Hayner, Priscilla B. "Fifteen Truth Commissions-1974 to 1994: A Comparative Study." Human Rights Quarterly 16, no. 4 (1994): 597-655.
Human Rights Watch. "Rwanda: Human Rights Developments." In Human Rights Watch World Report 1994: Events of 1993. New York, NY: Human Rights Watch, 1993. Available at http://www.hrw.org/reports/1994/WR94/Africa-06.htm (accessed June 30, 2008).
Human Rights Watch/Africa Watch Committee. Fédération Internationale des Droits de l'Homme, Union Interafricaine des Droits de l'Homme, and International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development. Report of the International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda since October 1, 1990 (January 7-21, 1993): Final Report. Human Rights Watch/Africa, 1993.
International Commission of Investigation on Human Rights Violations in Rwanda, The. Final Report.
Manga Fombad, Charles. Transitional Justice in Africa: The Experience with Truth Commissions, Hauser Global Law School Program, New York University School of Law, 2008. Available at http://www.nyulawglobal.org/Globalex/Africa_Truth_Commissions.htm (accessed June 30, 2008).
Rosenblum, Peter. The Status of Human Rights Organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa: Rwanda University of Minnesota Human Rights Library. Available at http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/africa/rwanda.htm (accessed June 30, 2008).