By Ally Margolis
Ally Margolis is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying Political Science and History.
In 1994, approximately 1 million people were killed in Rwanda over the course of 100 days. The socioeconomic differences between Rwanda’s inhabitants, Hutus and Tutsis, were later exacerbated to be seen as ethnic differences, a view egged on by colonial forces. While our narrative surrounding the events of the genocide focuses on Hutus that killed Tutsis, it is hard to know the exact breakdown of deaths because of lack of ethnic differences. However, neighbor killed neighbor, preacher killed congregant, and countryman killed countryman, often through the use of machetes. Throughout most of the genocide, the Western world looked on and did nothing, or actively made decisions that allowed the genocide to continue. While the international community should focus on its own failings during the Rwandan genocide, holding direct perpetrators accountable is the least they can do.
Last week, France began its trial of a man accused of transporting Hutu militiamen during the Rwanda genocide in 1994 . The ex-hotel driver, Claude Muhayimana, became a French national in 2010 . The trial is said to include fifteen Rwandan witnesses . The trial comes just a year after a leader of the Rwandan genocide was arrested by French officials .
In October of 2021, a United States Immigration Judge ordered the deportation of a man suspected of participating in the Rwanda genocide . Peter Kalimu is accused of taking part in attacks against two Tutsi families and looting and destroying Tutsi homes . Kalimu changed his identity when he arrived in the states and was convicted of making false statements to the Department of Homeland Security .
A month prior, a Rwandan army colonel died in a Mali jail . Théoneste Bagosora, considered a leader in the actions taken throughout the Rwandan genocide, was serving jail time after being found guilty of crimes against humanity . All of these cases suggest that after nearly thirty years the international community is still working to hold perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide accountable and refusing the forget the attrocities of the events of 1994.
A lawyer involved in the filings against the Muhayimana in France noted the importance of contributing “to the need for memory” and paying “homage to the victims” . France is able to prosecute this man and contribute to further justice because its legal system “grants universal jurisdiction to prosecuting crimes against humanity” . The U.S. Acting Assistant Attorney General noted in a statement in late October of 2021 that “the United States will not be a safe haven for suspected human rights violators” . Since 2003, the United States has arrested nearly 500 people for human rights violations and removed over 1,000 human rights violators . United States Homeland Security Investigations is currently working on over 170 investigations into those suspected of human rights violations .
Bagosora was tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda . Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international nongovernmental organization, wrote that his death sends the message that committing human rights abuses may force you to “live your final days behind bars” . HRW noted that while criminal accountability is “far too seldom, it can be achieved” . Achieving accountability is important. Many Americans are still unaware of the Rwandan genocide. Prosecuting and deporting those who took part in the violence is vital to raising awareness about the events and holding those responsible to account—no matter how long ago the events occurred.
 “Ex-hotel driver on trial in France over Rwanda genocide.” (22 November 2021) France 24. https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20211122-ex-hotel-driver-on-trial-in-france-over-rwanda-genocide
 Mudge, Lewis. “Rwandan Genocide Kingpin Dies in Mali Jail.” (11 October 2021) Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/10/11/rwandan-genocide-kingpin-dies-mali-jail
 Department of Justice, Office of Public Affairs. “Rwandan Genocide Suspect Permanently Leaves the United States After Denaturalization.” (28 October 2021) https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/rwandan-genocide-suspect-permanently-leaves-united-states-after-denaturalization
 “ICE Confirms Departure of Rwandan Genocide Suspect After Denaturalization.” (3 November 2021) Homeland Security Today. https://www.hstoday.us/subject-matter-areas/customs-immigration/ice-confirms-departure-of-rwandan-genocide-suspect-after-denaturalization/
The opinions and views expressed in this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.