Justice After Genocide?

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ARUSHA, Tanzania: Half a million people died during Rwanda's 1994 genocidal ethnic struggle, and there has been little justice for the victims so far. But after more than two years, the first hearings began Thursday in Arusha at the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. First to stand before the tribunal is Jean-Paul Akayesu, the former Hutu mayor of the Rwandan village of Taba. He is charged with inciting Hutu militias in 1994 to the mass murder of Tutsis. Akayesu's lawyer is expected to seek a delay, saying he hasn't had adequate time to prepare a defense. TIME's Nairobi bureau chief Andrew Purvis that the prosecution has had its own troubles. "The prosecutors were short staffed and underfunded for the first six months of their mandate," says Purvis. "That has recently changed, but relative to the tribunal in Bosnia, they haven't had the same resources or international attention. Most of the two dozen people who are indicted are at large in Africa and Europe, and the tribunal is seeking their extradition." The work will proceed slowly, Purvis says, and the courts are hindered by Hutus based in Zaire refugee camps who have been persecuting witnesses. The international tribunal is only going after a few dozen higher-level government officials, but Rwandan courts have tens of thousands of suspects detained in overcrowded jails. There are significant challenges before both tribunals, but the stakes couldn't be greater. Says Purvis: "The rumor on the ground in Rwanda is that if these people aren't brought to justice, people will resort to the only sure way to settle the score: more ethnic violence." -->