Fund for Survivors

4 Apr 2013

This month marks the nineteenth anniversary of the genocide  against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The theme for this year’s commemoration is kwigira (self-reliance).

Fostering self-reliance for genocide survivors is the bedrock on which all the work of Survivors Fund (SURF) is built. No one enjoys to be dependent on hand-outs, and as such our focus is providing the tools and resources to provide a hand-up to genocide survivors to enable them to rebuild their lives after the genocide.

However, to successfully achieve such self-reliance requires specialised and expert support. It requires tailored programmes that are attuned to the particular needs of genocide survivors, delivered by staff that are sensitive to the challenges of the survivors too. With such support in place, the experience of SURF is that self-reliance which can be sustained is possible.

This has been the experience for genocide widows as proven through our HIV+ Survivors Integration Project (SIP), and which we are demonstrating through our current Widowed Survivors Empowerment Project (WSEP) and Genocide Widows Empowerment Project (GWEP). The importance of resilience is also demonstrated to be critical for the fostering of self-reliance in genocide orphans, in research led by Professor Carl Auerbach.

As such, Survivors Fund (SURF) will be campaigning around the 19th anniversary commemoration for the establishment of an International Trust Fund for Survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi to enable the self-reliance of genocide survivors over the years ahead. As Noam Schimmel writes in the Huffington Post, it is critical that the UN and international agencies commit:  “…funding and programming to meet the needs of genocide survivors in Rwanda today and transform vulnerability and disadvantage to security, rehabilitation, and empowerment.”

The 64th UN General Assembly readopted a resolution calling for the urgent implementation of proposals to assist survivors of the 1994 Rwandan genocide: “requesting the Secretary-General to encourage relevant UN agencies, funds and programmes to provide assistance in the areas of education, medical care, skills training and microcredit programmes aimed at promoting self-sufficiency.”

The cumulative annual funding from UN agencies, funds and programmes for survivor’s organisations in Rwanda amounts to less than $500,000. In contrast, the appropriation of UN funds for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for the biennium of 2010 and 2011 is $245 million.

Article 14 of the Rwanda Constitution declares: “The State shall, within the limits of its capacity, take special measures for the welfare of the survivors of genocide who were rendered destitute by the genocide committed in Rwanda from October 1st, 1990 to December 31st, 1994, the disabled, the indigent and the elderly as well as other vulnerable groups.”

A Compensation Law for genocide survivors in Rwanda was approved by the Council of Ministers but it was withdrawn by the Ministry of Justice before it could be debated by the Parliament in 2002. A definition of who would be eligible for compensation was never resolved. As such, compensation has never been paid by the Rwandan state or any other body to survivors of the genocide.

Article 75 of the Rome Statute (1998) for the International Criminal Court allows for enforcement of restorative justice for survivors of human rights violations. The Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) is the main mechanism for doing so, along with the ICC’s legal mandate to require convicted individuals to compensate victims with their own assets which it does in DRC and Uganda.

The TFV is an historic institution essential for the realization of the ICC’s progressive mandate towards victims and is an acknowledgment that justice for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes cannot be met by retribution alone. It works alongside the Court’s reparative function to benefit victims. It acquires its assets from donations made by States and non-State entities.

As the Statute does not apply retrospectively, there is no such fund for victims of crimes heard at the ICTR. However there is a mandate for one to be established, as declared in the Rwanda Constitution and UN Resolution A/RES/64/226. But at present there is no political or public will to do so.

Ultimately survivors of the genocide in Rwanda want to be independent and self-sufficient. However, to return them to their socio-economic position before the genocide (and in so doing, deliver restorative justice) requires access to funding to rebuild their houses destroyed during the genocide, to complete education interrupted during the genocide, to re-establish livelihoods lost in the genocide and to ensure access to medical treatment to treat ailments resulting from the genocide.

To mark the 20th Anniversary of the Genocide, and the closure of International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, in 2014 we are calling for support to establish an International Trust Fund for Survivors of the Genocide in Rwanda. This will be modelled on the TFV and be governed by survivor’s organisations.

To make this possible requires voluntary contributions from UN agencies, funds, programmes and member states, which will enable collective reparation programmes to be delivered by survivor’s organisations in Rwanda to enable survivors to ultimately be self-reliant.

By progressing the reparation issue, the UN will secure the legacy and the very first objective of the ICTR to challenge impunity and deliver justice to victims.  If the IRMCT request the UN to address the matter, it will enhance the trust and perception in which it is held by victims in the international community. At present, it is well known that its process of justice has been heavily criticized for not rendering justice to victims, instead perceived to be a means of addressing its own stained image at the expense of victims.

UN event to commemorate the Rwandan genocide

The International Trust Fund for Survivors of the Genocide in Rwanda has the potential to deliver the restorative justice for which the Government of Rwanda does not have the resources, and that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda does not have the mandate.

This is a once-in-a-generation moment. As such, the survivors of the genocide call on the member states of the UN to set up a victim centred mechanism for restorative justice that will recognize and realise the right of genocide survivors in Rwanda to reparation, demonstrate the commitment of the UN to continue to fight impunity, and in so doing make a vital contribution to reconciliation in Rwanda.

For further information on Reparation for Survivors of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, please see Right to Reparation for Survivors, a discussion paper on recommendations for reparation for survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, published by IBUKA, the national umbrella association of 15 survivor’s organisations in Rwanda, in partnership with Survivors Fund (SURF) and REDRESS in October 2012.