Gatumba, four years on: Empty words from the international community?
The United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the attack that took place on Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi on August 13, 2004. Armed elements, including the National Liberation Front of the Party for the Liberation of the Hutu People, participated in this vicious attack on an already vulnerable population of refugees, many of them women and children. We extend our condolences to the families of the victims and to the Congolese government and people.
The United States strongly supports the initiative of the UN Security Council to quickly investigate the massacre. We call on the authorities of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to cooperate in identifying the perpetrators and in bringing them to justice.
- US State Department, August 16 2004
It is with horror and great indignation that the European Union has learned of the attack perpetrated in the evening of Friday 13 August on a refugee camp in Burundi... In line with the measures already announced by Burundian President Ndayizeye, the Presidency of the European Union expects that every effort will be made to establish the identity of the perpetrators of this cowardly and despicable attack, to arrest them and bring them to trial.
Presidency of the European Union, August 15 2004
The Security Council calls upon the authorities of Burundi and of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to cooperate actively so that the perpetrators and those responsible for these crimes be brought to justice without delay.
- United Nations Security Council, August 15 2004
France condemns with the utmost firmness the terrible massacre of Congolese refugees that occurred in Gatumba, on Burundi’s territory.
It is currently in close contact with its Security Council partners. The facts must be established without delay so that these crimes do not go unpunished.
- French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, August 16 2004
Foreign Office Minister, Dr Denis MacShane, today condemned the killing of 130 people during a raid on the Gatumba camp in Burundi, which is sheltering refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
-United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, August 14 2004
The people who committed this terrible crime must be out of their heads. They are really terrorists... I condemn very strongly what they did. They should be arrested as soon as possible, they should be brought to court.
- Agnes van Ardenne, Netherlands Minister For Development Co-operation, August 22 2004
Protecting refugees and displaced persons is a fundamental principle - and no cause or ideology can justify attacking such vulnerable, weakened groups. Consequently it is vital that every attempt be made to shed light on who was responsible for this act so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
- Karel de Gucht, Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, August 15 2004
The only fault of the dead was that they were Banyamulenge. A mindless and criminal hatred drove the killers to carry out an unpardonable crime against humanity. What they hated was the fact that the Banyamulenge were Banyamulenge. The murderers viewed the mere fact that the Banyamulenge exist as human beings as unacceptable.
They therefore took it upon themselves to commit cold-blooded murder, to ensure that the Banyamulenge cease to exist. Led by Adolf Hitler, the Nazis had taken the same decision with regard to the Jewish people, and systematically embarked on the Holocaust intended to annihilate an entire people.
Half-a-century later, other criminals, this time on our continent, carried out a genocide that claimed the lives of a million Rwandans in a mere 100 days. Hitler's African successors argued that the Tutsis of Rwanda, ethnically related to the Banyamulenge of the DRC, were "cockroaches" that did not deserve to live and therefore had to be exterminated.
- Thabo Mbeki, South African President, August 20 2004
It is not only terrorism within one state which has to be the concern of the international community as a whole, but other conflicts too. The situation in Darfur, in the Sudan, from where I returned last week, demands action both because it is a human tragedy, and because it affects the whole region through the spread of instability and the movement of refugees. And in Gatumba, in Burundi, the horrific massacre a few weeks ago underlines the continuing potential of that conflict to destabilise the Great Lakes, and the challenges which the UN force there has to face.
- Jack Straw, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, September 3 2004
It is essential that the killings of more than 150 Congolese refugees in Burundi are the subject of an independent impartial investigation, the findings of which should be made public and acted upon so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice...
The international community should do its utmost to ensure that past and present human rights abuses are investigated and that the perpetrators, whoever they are, are brought to justice. Sacrificing justice for short term political expediency will only prolong the region’s terrible human rights crisis and plays into the hands of the many protagonists who have no wish to see the truth, and justice, emerge.
- Amnesty International, August 17 2004
Dakar, Senegal (PANA) - The African Human Rights Rally (RADDHO) has qualified as "crime against humanity" the massacre of Congolese refugees last Friday in Gatumba, Burundi.According to the Dakar-based NGO, the killing of some 170 people in a transit camp hosting Congolese refugees and claimed by the National Liberation Front (FNL) represents "a crime against humanity jeopardising the peace processes in Burundi and DR Congo."
- Panafrican News Agency, August 17 2004
The Gatumba massacre was a direct attack on civilians in violation of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) for which all those responsible must be fully prosecuted. The Burundian government has issued arrest warrants for two leaders of the FNL, a promising first step that must be followed by the actual arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.
- Human Rights Watch, September 2004
...our position on the FNL remains unchanged. FNL leaders responsible for crimes against humanity and human rights violations must be brought to justice. We will continue to resist any moves to grant Rwasa or other FNL leaders immunity. We have made our position on this clear to EU partners and participants in the Regional Peace Initiative (group of African states including South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania) on many occasions. We are clear that breaking the culture of impunity in the region is key to peace in the Great Lakes. The FNL and other groups must be sent a signal that they cannot negotiate immunity.
If and when Rwasa and other FNL leaders return to Burundi we will push strongly for the Burundian authorities to try them as soon as possible for the crimes of which they have been accused or admitted responsibility for (such as the massacre in Gatumba in August 2004).
- British Foreign Office official, 6 May 2005
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