Mr. Tony Hall, Director-General of the BBC, Broadcasting House, Portland Place,
London. W1A 1AA

October 12, 2014.

Dear Sir,

We the undersigned, scholars, scientists, researchers, journalists and historians are writing to you today to express our grave concern at the content of the documentary Rwanda’s Untold Story (This World, BBC 2 Wednesday October 1), specifically its coverage of the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi.

We accept and support that it is legitimate to investigate, with due diligence and respect for factual evidence, any crimes committed by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), and to reflect on the contemporary political situation in Rwanda. However, attempts to examine these issues should not distort the reality of the 1994 genocide. It is not legitimate to use current events to either negate or to diminish the genocide. Nor is it legitimate to promote genocide denial.

The parts of the film which concern the 1994 genocide, far from providing viewers with an ‘Untold Story’ as the title promises, are old claims. For years similar material using similar language has been distributed far and wide as part of an on-going ‘Hutu Power’ campaign of genocide denial. At the heart of this campaign are convicted génocidaires, some of their defence lawyers from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and their supporters and collaborators. These deniers continually question the status of the genocide and try to prove – like the programme – that what it calls the ‘official narrative’ of the 1994 genocide is wrong. The BBC programme Rwanda’s Untold Story recycles their arguments and provides them with another platform to create doubt and confusion about what really happened.

Three of the untenable claims made in the programme are of the utmost concern: the first is a lie about the true nature of the Hutu Power militia. The second is an attempt to minimize the number of Tutsi murdered in the genocide, and the third is an effort to place the blame for shooting down President Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994 on the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

First, the programme allows a witness to claim that ‘only ten percent of the Interahamwe (militia) were killers’. In fact, the majority of Hutu Power militia forces – estimated to have been 30,000 strong – were trained specifically to

kill Tutsi at speed, and indoctrinated in a racist ideology, part of genocide planning. There is eyewitness testimony by several militia leaders who cooperated with the ICTR.

Second, the programme attempts to minimise the number of Tutsi murdered, a typical tactic of genocide deniers. The false figures cited are provided by two US academics who worked for a team of lawyers defending the génocidaires at the ICTR. They even claim that in 1994 more Hutu than Tutsi were murdered – an absurd suggestion and contrary to all the widely available research reported by Amnesty International, UNICEF, the UN Human Rights Commission, Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, Africa Rights, a UN Security Council mandated Commission of Experts and evidence submitted to the ICTR and other European courts who have successfully put on trial several perpetrators.

Third, the film argues that the shooting down of the plane on April 6, 1994 was perpetrated by the RPF. This same story was promoted by Hutu Power extremists within a few hours of the president’s assassination and promoted ever since by génocidaires and a few ICTR defence lawyers.

The film pays no heed to a detailed expert report published in January 2012 by a French magistrate Judge Marc Trévidic. This contains evidence from French experts, including crash investigators, who proved scientifically that the missiles that shot down the plane came from the confines of the government-run barracks in Kanombe on the airport’s perimeter – one of the most fortified places in the country, and where it would have been impossible for the RPF, armed with a missile, to penetrate.

Within hours of the president’s assassination, in this carefully planned genocide, roadblocks went up all over Kigali and the Presidential Guard started to target every member of Rwanda’s political opposition. These momentous events are barely mentioned. The members of the Hutu and Tutsi pro-democracy movements were hunted down and killed, including Rwanda’s Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, and ten UN peacekeepers from Belgium who were protecting her. These opposition politicians separately threatened the Habyarimana regime for advocating power-sharing and paid for their courage with their lives. Ignored in this film are the Hutu Power attempts to divide the internal political opposition along ethnic lines. Political violence in the film is seen only in the context of a ‘civil war’ between the RPF and the Habyarimana government, a smoke screen, used then and now, to hide the systematic killing of Tutsi carried out by the Hutu Power Interim Government and its militia.

The film-maker, Jane Corbin, who presented the programme, even tries to raise doubts about whether or not the RPF stopped the genocide. The authority on this subject is Lt.-General Roméo Dallaire, the Force commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), and present in Rwanda throughout the genocide. Dallaire is categorical. ‘The genocide was stopped because the RPF won and stopped it’, he says. Corbin

ignores the testimonies of direct witnesses to what happened in 1994: Dallaire and his volunteer UN peacekeepers, Philippe Gaillard and the medics at the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Dr. James Orbinski of Médecins Sans Frontières. Years of research and writing by academics and other experts along with hours of films by journalists who work for the BBC – all of this eyewitness testimony is dismissed as if fraudulent.

In broadcasting this documentary the BBC has been recklessly irresponsible. The programme has fuelled genocide denial. It has further emboldened the génocidaires, all their supporters and those who collaborate with them. It has provided them the legitimacy of the BBC. Denial of genocide causes the gravest offence to survivors. For them, the genocide is not a distant event from 20 years ago but a reality with which they live every day.

The denial of genocide is now widely recognised as the final stage of the crime. One of the world’s preeminent genocide scholars, the US Professor Greg H. Stanton, describes ten stages in genocide: classification of the population; symbolization of those classifications; discrimination against a targeted group; dehumanisation of the pariah group; organisation of the killers; polarisation of the population; preparation by the killers; persecution of the victims; extermination of the victims; and denial that the killing was genocide.

Denial, the final stage, ensures the crime continues. It incites new killing. It denies the dignity of the deceased and mocks those who survived. Denial of genocide is taken so seriously that in some European countries it is criminalized. In 2008 the Council of the European Union called upon states to criminalize genocide denial.

The 1994 genocide of the Tutsi should be treated by all concerned with the utmost intellectual honesty and rigour. We would be willing – indeed see it as our duty – to meet with journalists and to debate in a follow up programme the serious inaccuracies in Rwanda’s Untold Story.

We hope that the BBC management will quickly realise the gravity of the genocide denial in Rwanda’s Untold Story. We call upon the BBC to explain how the programme came to be made and the editorial decision-making which allowed it to be broadcast. In the course of any internal BBC enquiry we hope all relevant documents from the This World archive and from senior editors involved in approving the programme will be released for study.

Rwanda’s Untold Story tarnishes the BBC’s well-deserved reputation for objective and balanced journalism. We urge the BBC to apologise for the offence this programme has caused for all victims and survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

Signed

Professor Linda Melvern
Author, A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide; Conspiracy to Murder

Senator Roméo Dallaire Force Commander, UNAMIR

Professor Gregory H. Stanton President, Genocide Watch

Mehdi Ba
Journalist and Author

Bishop Ken Barham

Dr. Margaret Brearley Independent Scholar

Dr. Gerald Caplan
Author, The Preventable Genocide

Professor Frank Chalk
Professor of History/Director, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies, Concordia University, Co-author, ‘Mobilizing the Will to Intervene: Leadership to Prevent Mass Atrocities’ (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010)

Dr.Phil Clark
Reader in Comparative and International Politics, SOAS, University of London

Boubacar Boris Diop, Sénégal. Author, Murambi, the book of bones

Jean-Francois Dupaquier Author and Expert

Hélène Dumas,
Diplômée de l’IEP d’Aix-en-Provence (2003), Docteur en histoire de l’EHESS (2013)

Professor Margee Ensign
President, American University of Nigeria

Tim Gallimore
Independent genocide researcher

Peter Greaves
Former UNICEF staff member

Fred Grünfeld.
Emeritus professor in International Relations, Human Rights and the Causes of Gross Human Rights Violations, Universities of Maastricht and Utrecht, Netherlands. Author, The Failure to Prevent Genocide in Rwanda: The Role of Bystanders, 2007

Dr. Helen Hintjens
Assistant Professor in Development and Social Justice, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) The Hague

Dr. Georgina Holmes
Lecturer International Relations,
University of Portsmouth/Royal Holloway, University of London

Richard Johnson
Author, The Travesty of Human Rights Watch on Rwanda

Eric Joyce MP

Ambassador Karel Kovanda (ret).
Czech Representative on the UN Security Council, 1994-95

Françoise Lemagnen
Chief Executive, Survivors Fund (SURF)

Ambassador Stephen Lewis.
Former Canadian Ambassador to the UN.

W. Alan McClue
Visiting Fellow, Bournemouth University/Cranfield University

Roland Moerland
Ph.D. Researcher and Lecturer in Supranational and Organizational Criminology, Department of Criminal Law and Criminology Maastricht University, The Netherlands

George Monbiot Author and Journalist

Jacques Morel
Author, La France au coeur du génocide des Tutsi (2010)

Barbara Mulvaney
International Law Consultant; Former Senior Trial Attorney - Bagosora et al., United Nations International Tribunal for Rwanda

Dr. Jude Murison
School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Peter Raymont
President, White Pine Pictures, Toronto, Canada

Professor Josias Semujanga
Professeur titulaire, Département des littératures de langue française, Université de Montréal, Quebec

Jonathan Salt
Managing Director of Ojemba Education

Keith Somerville
Senior Research fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; Lecturer in Communications and Humanitarianism, Centre for Journalism, University of Kent

Patrick de Saint-Exupéry Author and journalist

Dr James M. Smith CBE CEO, Aegis Trust

Rafiki Ubaldo Journalist

Andrew Wallis
Author, Silent Accomplice: The untold Story of the Role of France in the Rwandan Genocide, I.B.Tauris, 2014

Lillian Wong, O.B.E.
British Chargé d’Affairs in Rwanda 1994-1995

Events in Rwanda in 1994 mark a landmark in the history of modern genocide. Up to one million people were killed in a planned public and political campaign. In the face of indisputable evidence, the Security Council of the United Nations failed to respond.

In this classic of investigative journalism, Linda Melvern tells the compelling story of what happened.

She holds governments to account, showing how individuals could have prevented what was happening and didn't do so. The book also reveals the unrecognised heroism of those who stayed on during the genocide, volunteer peacekeepers and those who ran emergency medical care.

Fifteen years on, this new edition examines the ongoing impact of the 1948 Genocide Convention and the shock waves Rwanda caused around the world. Based on fresh interviews with key players and newly-released documents, A People Betrayed is a shocking indictment of the way Rwanda is and was forgotten and how today it is remembered in the West.

A People Betrayed contains a full narrative account of how the genocide unfolded.

It describes its scale, speed and intensity. The combination of revelations about the complicity of western nations, the failure to intervene, and the suppression of information about what was actually happening, is a shocking indictment, not just of the UN Security Council, but even more so of governments and individual who could have prevented what was happening but chose not to do so.

The United Nations, which fifty years ago resolved that genocide never happened again, not only failed to prevent it happening in Rwanda, but, as this book shows, international funds intended to help the Rwandan economy actually helped to create the conditions that made the genocide possible.

The best overall account of the background to the genocide, and the failure to prevent it...the investigation is hers, and hers alone. She discovered so much that we did not know.

Lt-.General Romeo Dallaire. Force Commander UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda, (UNAMIR) 1994.

www.theguardian.com by Linda Melvern

In a milestone court case in Paris, unprecedented testimony could reveal the Elysée's links to the 1994 génocidaires

‘The policy was devised in secret … within the confines of the Africa Unit. At its heart was François Mitterrand.

The trial this week of a Rwandan genocide suspect in a Paris courtroom is a well-earned victory for the French human rights groups who lobbied so hard and so long for justice. The milestone trial signals the end of France as a safe haven for génocidaries. But more than this, the trial is likely to see intense public scrutiny of one of the great scandals of the past century – the role of France in the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi of Rwanda, which for 20 years journalists and activists have tried so hard to expose.

Pascal Simbikangwa, the defendant in Paris, is said to have been a member of an inner circle of power in Rwanda that devised genocide as a planned political campaign. Developed by Hutu ideologues, it was intended to prevent a power-sharing system of government that was to include the minority Tutsi. The genocide claimed up to a million lives.

A captain in the Rwandan gendarmerie until 1986, when he was paralysed in a car accident, Simbikangwa – a fanatic who hoped to create what was known as "a pure Hutu state" – worked for the security services in the capital Kigali. He was eventually found hiding out in the French department of Mayotte, an island group in the Indian Ocean, with 3,000 forged identity papers – more than enough for the hundreds of Rwandan fugitives still at large. He denies all the charges, and his lawyer says he is a scapegoat.

Until now there has been a complete absence of will in Paris to bring to justice any of the estimated 27 Rwandan genocide fugitives who live on French soil. The country was a staunch ally of the Rwandan government which planned and perpetrated the genocide. The trial may well show the French electorate just how appalling its secret policy towards the central African state really was.

The policy was devised in secret, with no accountability from press or parliament and largely  determined within the confines of a special office in the president's Elysée Palace known as the Africa Unit. It operated through a network of military officers, politicians, diplomats, businessmen and senior intelligence operatives. At its heart was President François Mitterrand, who had operated through senior army officers: General Christian Quesnot, Admiral Jacques Lanxade and General Jean-Pierre Huchon.

The prosecution testimony in the trial will be unprecedented in the detail it will provide about the genocide. The evidence combines the results of investigations into the Simbikangwa case at the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and details from investigations carried by Rwandan authorities. Never before, not even in the courtrooms of the ICTR, has such an impressive array of witnesses assembled. It is hoped that their combined testimony will put paid to a campaign of denial waged by defence lawyers at the ICTR who claimed the killing in Rwanda was not the result of a conspiracy but was somehow "spontaneous".

Simbikangwa's prosecutors are concentrating on his role during the killing, when he allegedly encouraged the murder of Tutsi by Interahamwe militia on roadblocks and provided them with weapons. The roadblocks and the Interahamwe were an integral part of the planned killing mechanism and ensured the speed and scale of the slaughter.

But the impact of the Simbikangwa trial will be felt far beyond the courtroom. It is hoped that for the French public the nature of the genocide will be laid bare, and that at long last a debate about France and Rwanda will begin. Twenty years too late, a true reckoning may at last be possible.

Buy A People Betrayed

Revised and updated edition: 2009

Zed Books 2000 ISBN 1-85649-831

Buy Complicites de Genocide

French translation of A People Betrayed.

Karthala, Paris. 2010

www.karthala.com

Read the Globe and Mail Article:

Our Rwandan Betrayal