Rwanda rights monitoring chief resigns amid U.N. squabbling

September 12, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

KIGALI, Rwanda -- As arrests by the government appear to be mounting, the head of the United Nations team in charge of monitoring human rights here has resigned, casting doubt on the organization's ability to investigate Rwanda's genocidal massacres or keep tabs on the current situation.

U.N. sources said over the weekend that Karen Kenny, an Irish human rights lawyer, let her contract lapse because of frustration over lack of support from U.N. headquarters in New York, the organization's Human Rights Center in Geneva and leaders of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Rwanda.

Ms. Kenny's four-member team was responsible for monitoring current human rights practices and investigating the countrywide killings last spring in which a half-million people -- some estimates say twice that many -- are believed to have been annihilated. Most victims were members of Rwanda's Tutsi minority.

But U.N. sources said Ms. Kenny spent much of her time battling the U.N. bureaucracy to get computers, staff and cars to take her investigators into the field in search of testimony, survivors or victims.

In May, a month after the killings began, U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali appointed a special envoy for Rwanda to provide detailed reports so that the United Nations could establish individual responsibility for the mass murders.

The U.N. Security Council also appointed legal experts from three West African countries to formally determine whether genocide had taken place and to identify those responsible for possible prosecution before an international tribunal.

But the delays and lack of resources experienced by Ms. Kenny and her staff led some to question the United Nations' commitment to singling out the murderers and human rights violators.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has reported a drastic increase in the number of people arrested by authorities in Rwanda, with 2,000 people said to have been detained in the past 10 days.

The new Rwandan Patriotic Front-led government has forsworn mass reprisals against members of the majority Hutu tribe or returning refugees, although they have insisted that ringleaders and participants in the springtime blood bath must be punished.

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