From Charles I to Charles Taylor
16 Jean Kambanda, Convicted without Trial
On 6 April 1994 an aircraft carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, the chief of staff of the Rwandan army, and other senior Rwandan and Burundi officials, was shot down as it came into land at Kigali airport. All the passengers and three French crew were killed. By common consent, it was this event which triggered what has become known as the Rwandan genocide, a three-month massacre in which hundreds of thousands of people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were murdered, often with machetes. The fighting ended with the victory of the Tutsi-dominated Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), which managed to overthrow the Hutu government in July and has remained in power ever since.
The Rwandan genocide has become the defining event in the canon of modern military and judicial interventionism. It inspired – and continues to inspire – huge revulsion, as hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were hacked to death. A number of Hollywood feature films have been made about it (in contrast to the roughly contemporaneous events in Bosnia, which have generated no equivalent entertainment). The few months between the shooting down of the plane in April and the RPF victory in mid-July 1994 have been elevated to the supreme reference point for the two main claims of the interventionists: first, that the West stood idly by while the killing took place (there were UN soldiers in Rwanda at the time and yet they did not stop the killing) and that, therefore, it should instead...
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