PRESS CONFERENCE ON INDEPENDENT INQUIRY INTO UN ACTIONS IN RWANDA
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
18 June 1999
The independent inquiry into United Nations actions before and during the 1994 Rwanda genocide hoped to draw conclusions about why the event had occurred, who was responsible, and how lessons learned from it could prevent it from happening again, correspondents were told at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.
Responding to questions from journalists, Ingvar Carlson, former Prime Minister of Sweden, said that the three-man panel had been guaranteed full access to all the relevant material available at the United Nations. The inquiry would look at the facts and interview people it thought had anything of value to say.
Serving on the panel with Mr. Carlson are Han Sung-Joo, former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, and General Rufus Kupolati of Nigeria, former head of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in Jerusalem.
Asked about the panel's background and why it had been organized, Mr. Han replied that there had been a need to establish an independent panel that was neither directly related to any national government nor part of the United Nations. Mr. Carlson, General Kupolati and himself had been seen as people who could handle the inquiry objectively and professionally.
Another journalist, noting that Human Rights Watch had accused the United Nations of getting rid of vital evidence, asked whether all the documents the panel would need still actually existed.
Mr. Carlson said the Organization had very strict rules about keeping documents. The panel had been told the documents would be available. It would also meet representatives of any non-governmental organizations that felt they had something to inform the inquiry about.
At this point, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, Fred Eckhard, who was the press conference's moderator, said that all incoming cables were logged and that records of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations were maintained by two or three staffers.
Mr. Carlson said the panel would not only look at documents of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, but also those of the Office of the Secretary-General and other files available in the United Nations.
Why was it at this particular time that the Rwanda issue had suddenly taken hold when it had essentially been neglected for the last five years? another correspondent asked.
Mr. Han replied that the issue had not been neglected. There had been internal studies, especially regarding the lessons to be learned from the Rwanda experience. The only new element was the panel's independence as it was not tied to the United Nations or any particular country. One might say it could have been organized earlier, but certainly it was appropriate to have such a panel now.
Asked whether the inquiry team would investigate the downing of the plane in which then Rwanda President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed, triggering the genocide, Mr. Carlson replied that the panel was supposed to look into what the United Nations did or did not do. It was quite certain that the Organization was not involved in shooting down the plane.
Another journalist asked who the panel hoped to meet on its planned visit to Rwanda and other regional countries. When was it expected to depart?
The visit would probably take place in the next two or three months, Mr. Han said. The panel would be compiling the names of those it expected to meet in the next few days.
Had there been any formal response from the Government of Rwanda to the appointment of the independent inquiry? another journalist asked. Had President Pasteur Bizimungu or Vice-President Paul Kagame indicated any willingness to talk with the panel?
Mr. Carlson said they had met yesterday with Rwanda's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, who had given it his full support, saying that he would help with such practical matters as planning the visit and meeting the people they wanted to meet.
Another journalist asked if the panel had any authority to ensure that the United Nations implemented its recommendations. How could it assure people in Africa, where there was a lot of bitterness about the Organization's role in Rwanda, that the inquiry would not be a whitewash?
Mr. Carlson replied that the panel would try to make as clear as possible what had happened and what measures had been neglected as well as who was responsible for the neglect and mistakes. The panel was also supposed to propose how a recurrence of the 1994 events could be avoided. It had no guarantees that the United Nations, Security Council members and the Secretariat would accept its decisions. On the other hand, the panel had been appointed because the Secretary-General and the Security Council found it important that the work be done. Like any similar inquiry, it could not expect all its proposals to be accepted.
Responding to another questioner, Mr. Carlson said that starting next Monday and into July, the panel would start looking at United Nations documents with the help of its special advisers. In August, hopefully, the panel would interview researchers, authors and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The drafting of the report, which was supposed to be submitted before the end of the year, would take up the latter part of the panel's work.
Who was paying for the inquiry and how much? another journalist asked.
The amount depended on whatever expenditures would be incurred, Mr. Carlson replied. The Secretary-General had told the Security Council that it would be within the Secretariat's budget.
Responding to another question, he said the fact that the United Nations was paying for the inquiry would not in any way affect the panel's findings about the Secretariat, the Security Council or about Member States.
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