I want to thank Justice Arbour and the other Justices for taking the time to speak with me about the International Criminal Tribunal and its efforts to bring peace to central Africa and justice to those who committed genocide, acts of sexual violence, and other war atrocities in Rwanda in 1994. Justice Arbour has established herself as a determined guardian of the rule of law. She and the Tribunal's investigators, prosecutors and justices deserve our strong support as they undertake this difficult work. Let me also thank the staff of the Tribunal for their dedication and their willingness to serve under conditions that are often far from ideal.
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton
Statement at The International Criminal Tribunal
March 24, 1997
Genocide is a crime against humanity. The perpetrators of genocide must be brought to justice whenever genocide occurs; wherever genocide occurs. As a signatory of the International Convention on Genocide, the United States is legally and morally bound to prosecute and punish those who commit such crimes. But let me be clear: We seek punishment not for its own sake, but as a signal of the return of the rule of law and accountability, as a stark warning against future acts of horror, and as a first step on the road to peace and reconciliation.
The training workshop on sexual violence that I just observed is critical to the Tribunal's efforts to live up to its mandate. The war in Rwanda was waged with the lives and dignity of women and children. The evidence suggests that rape and sexual assault were committed on a mass scale. They were tactics of war. On this, the world community must speak with one voice: Such tactics will never be tolerated. We will do our utmost to see to it that the war criminals who practice them who subject women and children to sexual abuse and violence will be investigated, prosecuted, and punished with the full force of the law.
This tribunal has an immense and important job before it. The results of its work will be felt not just in Africa, but around the world. The Tribunal can help bind up the wounds of war; it can guard against future acts of genocide and their horrible aftermath refugee crises that trap women and children in a world of despair. In short, because the Tribunal is prosecuting the lowest of crimes, it must be held to the highest of standards.
That is why the United States is encouraged by the decisive action United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has taken to repair and reform the Tribunal's management and operations. Working with Justice Arbour, the Secretary General has taken the necessary first steps to correct the problems that have plagued the Tribunal's short existence.
We applaud these ongoing efforts to create a Tribunal that is fair, efficient, effective, and just. A Tribunal that does not live up to these standards will undermine the prospects for peace in central Africa and dishonor the memory of those who perished in Rwanda.
President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright are firmly committed to the Tribunal's goals and to these critically important reform efforts. The United States is the Tribunal's largest contributor. Our financial support totals more than $12 million. We have provided computers and other necessities. Ten Americans currently serve in the Office of the Prosecutor. In fact, the United States helped to sponsor the workshop on rape and sexual assaults that I visited today.
I should add that the United States is also working to rebuild the judiciary in Rwanda. While this Tribunal will concentrate on bringing to justice the architects of genocide, Rwanda's courts will focus on those who participated in the violence at lower levels. It is essential that we continue to help Rwanda to put in place a system of laws that will ensure fair treatment for all innocent and guilty alike.
Finally, let me say that this is an international Tribunal. It can succeed only with sustained support and cooperation from the community of nations. Every country has the responsibility to assist the Tribunal with its work.
This is a holy week one that marks the passage from loss and despair to hope and redemption. In many ways, that is the mission of this Tribunal to heal and bring justice to a place that has known too much sorrow. It must succeed.
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's Trip to Africa