Documents on Rwanda

These blood-covered records, found in the Ntarama Church after the massacre, are preserved in a plastic bag. The National Genocide Archives collects documents, photographs and other sources and has made part of its holdings accessible online. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has also put many records online. Many of the crimes are carefully documented in the indictments and sentences.

Credit: Dave Proffer / CC BY

Protocol of Horror

The indictment from attorney at Carla Del Ponte against Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, the mayor of the Rusuma community, was nine pages long. In blunt language she lists how he organized the murder of thousands of Tutsis in his district on the border to Tanzania. Her protocol was crucial in getting a life sentence for Gacumbitsi, who was one of the few people involved in the practical aspects of the genocide’s implementation.  

Del Ponte’s indictment is dated January 20, 2001. In it, she accuses the mayor of having organized the campaign in his community to kill the Tutus. In the document she lists Gacumbitsi’s activities for each day in spring 1994. A first meeting took place in his office on April 9, 1994 during which weapons were distributed. The following day he received more than 100 boxes of grenades, machetes and other weapons. On April 12 he ordered the distribution of more weapons and the killing of the first Tutsis whose children had joined the rebels. On April 14 he distributed machetes again and ordered all Tutsis in the area to be killed at midnight. Anyone who killed a Tutsi would be given the murdered person’s property.

Gacumbitsi led the attack from April 15-17 on the Nyarubuye Church where many Tutsis had sought safety. Riding at the head of several police and military vehicles, he drove up to the church and unloaded machetes. Police and militia surrounded the church. Then Gacumbitsi ordered the attack on the Tutsis with grenades, firearms and traditional weapons. The next day he appeared again to kill the survivors among the dead bodies. In the end the church was plundered.

Del Ponte also accused the mayor of calling for the rape of Tutsi women and of announcing over a megaphone from his car: “Tutsi girls that have always refused to sleep with Hutus should be raped (…), Don’t save a single snake.”

Click here for the text of the indictment and here for the verdict of June 20, 2001.


Website of the Genocide Archive of Ruanda

Website of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Statute of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

Video on the Archives of the International Tribunal for Ruanda 


After the Dictatorship. Instruments of Transitional Justice in Former Authoritarian Systems – An International Comparison

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