While the slaughter of minority Tutsis by Rwandan Hutu soldiers has been widely documented, an Amnesty International report reveals fresh allegations that rebel Tutsis were also responsible for killing a large number of Hutus.
The report, released yesterday, adds urgency to the need for the killers on both sides of the conflict to be brought to justice, UN officials and human rights investigators say. Without a thorough probe and tribunal, the cycle of ethnic massacres and revenge killings could continue in Rwanda, these analysts say.
The report alleges that the Tutsi rebels ``killed hundreds and possibly thousands of prisoners and unarmed civilians'' from April to August.
The scale of alleged killings by the then-rebel forces, Amnesty officials stress, is only a fraction of the killings of Tutsis by Hutus; an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people died at the hands of Hutu forces and civilian militias, according to UN investigators.
Neither Amnesty nor the United Nations has found evidence that the new government has a policy of systematic violence against civilians or condones such acts. And Amnesty investigators say they have received few allegations of killings done by Tutsi-led forces in September and none this month.
Officials of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi rebel movement that formed the new government, deny any systematic killings, but admit to isolated cases of revenge murders by their soldiers.
Amnesty officials insist, however, that only a full investigation in atrocities committed by both sides will speed reconciliation.
The UN has made slow progess into conducting such a probe, which would gather data for possible use in a tribunal on genocide. International efforts have focused on setting up a process to punish Hutus who committed massacres against the Tutsi minority in Rwanda during the conflict, which lasted from April to early July, when the rebels took power. In the meantime, the new government has arrested scores of suspected killers but has no system for trying them efficiently in Rwanda's dilapidated courts.
In order to begin prosecuting alleged killers, says Godfrey Byaruhanga of Amnesty, the UN and individual governments must help provide funds for proper, impartial investigations. Otherwise, soldiers of the new government are likely to continue taking revenge, he says.
Amnesty bases its conclusions on interviews with Hutus conducted mostly in the Rwandan language. The report states: ``There is clear evidence of deliberate and arbitrary killings and summary executions carried out by the [Tutsi-led rebels].''
``These were not isolated incidents,'' says Mr. Byaruhanga, a Ugandan who was part of Amnesty's three-member investigating team. Speaking with the Monitor by phone, he said they spoke with Hutus inside Rwanda and refugees in Burundi and Uganda for two weeks in August. In several cases, he says, ``dozens were killed ... with bayonets.''
Byaruhanga says he is aware that some Hutus might have lied to discredit the new Tutsi-led government, but adds that Amnesty is experienced in determining when interviewees are credible. Amnesty cross-checked the main allegations.
An investigator for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees alleged in a recent, unpublished assessment that some 30,000 Hutus have been killed by Tutsis this year. UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has instructed UN officials not to discuss the assessment, pending further investigation. Byaruhanga calls this a ``gag order.''