Long Overdue Investigation Needed Into U.S. Government Role During Rwandan Genocide

News and Press Release
Originally published
Last week's release of a UN report critical of the United Nation's failure to take decisive steps to stop the 1994 genocide in Rwanda should increase pressure on the U.S. government to conduct an independent investigation into its own negligence during the Rwandan genocide.
The U.S. Committee for Refugees has repeatedly called for an independent review of U.S. policies during the genocide because it is clear that the Clinton Administration played a major role in blocking UN action in 1994 that might have reduced the scale of killing during the genocide, in which up to 800,000 persons were slaughtered.

"The U.S. government is now virtually alone in refusing to allow an independent examination of its policy failures during the Rwandan genocide," said Roger Winter, executive director of the U.S. Committee for Refugees. "The governments of Belgium and France have already submitted themselves to critical policy reviews. The United Nations has now completed its own self-investigation. Only the U.S. government has stonewalled an inquiry into its mistakes."

High-ranking American government officials during the 1994 genocide refused to meet this year with the UN investigative panel, according to the panel's leader, Ingvar Carlsson, a former Swedish prime minister. U.S. officials' refusal to allow a thorough examination of their roles reinforces the need for a separate inquiry into U.S. decision-making during the Rwandan genocide so that similar failures can be avoided in the future.

"Only by laying out the facts in detail will the United States have a possibility of living up to the high moral expectations of the American people when genuine genocide recurs in the future," Winter said.

Several current government policy-makers were high officials when the genocide occurred in 1994, Winter pointed out. "A full and impartial inquiry should review the role of President Clinton himself, the role of then-U.S. Representative to the UN Madeleine Albright, the role of then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and others. Only through a proper inquiry can we understand fully the deplorable role of the United States in abandoning Rwanda's genocide victims during their most fateful hour."

President Clinton apologized last year for the U.S. government's failure to respond to Rwanda's genocide and stated that he "did not fully appreciate" the scope of the killings when they occurred. The President's own explanation suggests that the U.S. government, despite extensive diplomatic and intelligence resources, suffered a monumental failure by neglecting to inform adequately its own leader about the clearest genocide the human race has seen in nearly 50 years. A governmental policy breakdown of that magnitude is worthy of close examination.

Last year, the U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR) urged Congress to establish an independent commission of inquiry on the matter. Congressional and Administration officials largely ignored the idea. USCR now repeats its call. "The commission should identify the political and moral failures within the U.S. government that led to such tragic consequences in Rwanda, and should identify steps for better accountability to mitigate against such gross failures in the future," Winter stated.

"The United States, the world's only superpower, the essential leader within the United Nations, the country that stands for human rights and public accountability, should itself be held to the highest standard of accountability."

The U.S Committee for Refugees is a non-profit organization that monitors and advocates on refugee and population displacement emergencies worldwide.

Copyright 1999, USCR