Today's decision by the Secretary-General to withdraw his Investigative Team (SGIT) from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was the inevitable result of a series of obstacles which have prevented the Team fulfilling its mandate.From an interview with Mary Robinson in The Spectator, on September 21, 2012:
I see this development in the overall context of the international community's commitment to fight impunity which is one of the major factors in the recurrent violence in the Great Lakes Region and elsewhere.
The withdrawal is a grave setback in this battle against impunity and underscores the need for an International Criminal Court with the political backing and resources to bring to justice the perpetrators of the worst violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. . . .
The people of the DRC, and of the broader region, are entitled to a future free from the violence and abuse of the past decades. An essential step in realising such changes lies in ending the cycle of impunity which has only encouraged inter-ethnic and other violence"
Could you describe your visit to Rwanda after the genocide in 1994?
Even though it was a couple of months after the actual genocidal killing, you could smell the blood, and see it everywhere: you could see the little children’s shoes in every building you went into. There was also a huge prison population, and I talked to a number of widows who had been raped. It was devastating. I was determined the following year, when I was invited by Ireland to represent the country at the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, that I would bring Rwanda to the table of the UN if you like.
But you had difficulty with the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame at a later stage?
That was when I went back to Rwanda as UN High Commissioner in 1998. At that stage I thought, they know me, but when I arrived, I was a UN official, and there was that coldness and distance, because the UN had betrayed Rwanda, and they were hurting.
I was caught up in that, and didn’t fully appreciate the extent of it. But I was also getting briefed about what Rwanda was doing in the Democratic Republic of Congo - understandably trying to catch those who had been responsible for the genocide - but subsequently killing civilians in the process. So I had to try and raise that issue at various levels.
Did you regret the press conference you gave that year as UN High Commissioner when you condemned the actions of the Rwandan Government?
I sounded at the press conference like a western person who was giving out to Rwanda, not like somebody who had been deeply supportive, sympathetic and engaged. That’s why when I was leaving Rwanda on that visit I was so upset with myself. I think I am regarded as someone who has had a lot of success in life, and I want young people who are reading this book to know, that there are going to be times when you are not going to be proud of what you did, but you go on.