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Investigator details charges

Tony Greig is a former U.N. War Crimes investigator who worked with the International Criminal Tribunal looking into genocide charges in Rwanda — including charges a U.N. employee participated in the genocide. He was interviewed by NBC News in New Zealand.  This is a transcript.

NBC News: Tell me about yourself, your background, where you grew up?

Tony Greig: Well I grew up in England, and I was in the London police. Then when I was about 25, I moved to New Zealand and joined the New Zealand police and left the New Zealand police in 1994, went to law school, studied law and now I work as a lawyer here in Christchurch, [New Zealand.]

NBC News: And how did you end up working for the U.N.?

Greig: They advertised for investigators/lawyers and as I had both qualifications I applied, and eventually, after a while they called and I got a job offer and off I went. I moved to Rwanda in November 2000.

NBC News: With the International Criminal Tribunal in Rwanda, what were you hired to do and what did you find?

Greig: I was employed as an investigator and my particular team, we were investigating the role of the business community in the genocide and we identified a bunch of leaders of the business community and I investigated two people. And then in about May or June of 2001, the London Sunday Times published a story about Mbarushimana who at that time was working for the U.N. in Kosovo. … [The] article [alleged] that Mbarushimana had been complicit in the genocide in 1994 and I was asked to investigate this and to see if we could come out with any evidence. And over the next few months I did investigate that and came up with quite a number of witnesses who had seen him carry out killings.

NBC News: Who is Mbarushimana and what crimes do you believe he committed?

Greig: Mbarushimana was a Rwandan employed by the U.N., by the U.N. DP [United Nations Development Programme] … as an IT technician. So he had been a mid-level local worker as opposed to an international worker. And when the war broke out in April of 1994, all of the U.N. international staff were withdrawn, but all of the local Rwandanese stayed behind. And at that point, Mbarushimana assumed command of the U.N., as it were, and declared himself the senior person. He probably wasn't, but the better qualified people were probably the Tutsis, and they had gone into hiding. So Mbarushimana by default became the head of the United Nations in Rwanda at the time.

NBC News: What crimes do you believe he committed at that time?

Greig: Well, the evidence that's been gathered indicates a number of things. Firstly, that he established a militia prior to the war, which he probably himself lead and trained in his home sector of Nealrambo, near Kigali, the capital. The training included weapons training, a drill and some sort of political training. It appears there were a lot of political rallies leading up to the genocide in April 1994.

After the war broke out, it appears that he had assembled a list of his U.N. colleagues who were Tutsi, and the evidence is that he tracked them down where possible, and killed them where he could and that he also organized his militia in Nealarambo to establish road blocks and to hunt down just the local Tutsis in that area.

NBC News: When, where and why did Mbarushimana allegedly commit these murders?

Greig: The genocide essentially took place because ever since independence in the 50s from Belgium, the Tutsis, who had been the governing and leading race, but were a minority, were displaced by prior to the independence of the Hutu majority. They had resented that and had, on a number attempts, had attempted to resume control from the Hutus. These became increasingly violent and evidence show that as the 80s wore on, a plan was hatched to finish the Tutsis once and for all by wiping them out.

The plan was hatched over a number of years. There were trial massacres in certain parts of the country, lists of prominent Tutsis were drawn up, and then in April 1994, just right before the country was due to hold multi-party elections, the president was killed, no one knows by whom, and that was the trigger, the excuse or the trigger, whichever way you look at it, for the outbreak of the genocide. And at that point, the government would put into plan what they had set up to massacre all of the Tutsis.

NBC News: In terms of [Mbarushimana], the crimes [he allegedly committed] took place when?

Greig: Well the war lasted for three months, from April of 1994 until the Tutsi army, the exiles as it were, gained control of the country and then it stopped.

NBC News: You interviewed 24 witnesses in Rwanda about Mbarushimana, what did they say?

Greig: Well, some of them said he had done nothing, I must be clear about that. One of the difficulties about interviewing people in Rwanda is that the country is trying to get on with ordinary life and some people just don't want to get involved in this. Clearly, some people are guilty of things and so they don't want to [be] pointing a finger at any one else as a risk to themselves. So, a number of people said he did nothing at all but, we found a substantial number of people who personally witnessed him organizing his militia, making statements that indicated a desire to wipe out all Tutsis and who personally saw him killing members of the Tutsi race.

NBC News: Do you have any particular telling accounts of Mbarushimana's involvement?

Greig: I think one of the one's that sticks in my mind is a young woman whose father had worked for the U.N., as a driver. He knew Mbarushimana and he prepared the family for war. He said he knew it was going to come. And once it started, a number of families moved into the compound with this family. And my witness talked about how the soldiers had come on a number of occasions and the father had managed to pay them off.

But, finally the money ran out and on the 15th of April, the soldiers came again.

She said, "When I saw them coming, I ran outside and hid in the bath house with the house girl. The soldiers ordered everyone outside, they came out to where past I was hiding. When my mother came out, they hit her over the head with a bayonet. My mother asked them to shoot rather than hit her over the head with a bayonet. Then my sister Yvette, who was 15 came out of the house and asked her why they were making so much noise. The soldier in blue jeans then shot at her. He hit her in the arm.

The bullet almost severed her arm. What was left was only hanging on by a piece of flesh. My father started to be asked questions about a gun he was meant to have had. He was asked to hand it over and asked if he could go look after his daughter. Then he got angry and started to beat the soldiers. As a result they all turned their attention on him. The bath house where I was hiding was only a few feet away from where Yvette was. I called to her to come hide where I was but she refused. She took a piece of cloth from the wash line and removed the piece of her arm that was almost severed.

She put it on the ground. She then told me that she would not hide. She could not live on with her parents dead. She told me to go hide with the neighbors. She then said that her last wish was to have her arm buried with her. For that, she went to join the rest of my family who by that time had been moved in front of the gate. I moved from my hiding place and went down between our two houses where I could see my family. Also with us was Bennini's family, although Bennini himself wasn't actually with us. As Yvette joined them, my mother collapsed at the site of seeing her with blood all over and missing an arm. I think my mother died there and then.

They were all told to lie down. The commander blew on a whistle. I got the impression that he expected the soldiers to open fire. The commander with the whistle was not the man in the blue jeans; he was one of the soldiers. Then he blew it again and again nothing happened. Then he blew it a third time. They then opened fire and shot every person except for one person who was staying with us, and her child, and Yvette who they thought must have been dying anyway. After shooting my family, they then went next store to shoot another family, the man named Kibacka. Then they came back to loot our house. Yvette was still alive and asked them to shoot her, they did.”

Then she goes on to recount how she managed to escape and made her way to a refugee camp. Now she can't identify Mbarushimana herself because she didn't know him. But, I found another witness who was hiding in bushes nearby, he saw that attack and he says it was Mbarushimana who took part in that attack and who lead the troops.

NBC News: How hard was it for you to hear some of this?

Greig: Well, in fact, the Rwandese make it easy and so brave … and this woman, she cried a little, but not that much. She got through it and her parents were still buried out in the compound where they had been shot beside her.

NBC News: Witnesses told you that Mbarushimana rewarded some with some beer after they killed people, other witnesses say that Mbarushimana ordered them to bury bodies of innocent civilians after they had been killed. Other witnesses have told you that Mbarushimana ordered the killings of some of his own soldiers. Given everything you know about Mbarushimana, how would you describe him?

Greig: He is a genocidier. There are a number of witness statements of people who knew him through the U.N., who worked for him as militia. There are people I've interviewed, and I have the statement, and they killed on his orders. They manned road blocks, they killed people, they got rewarded with cows and beer and other things and there are people who on several occasions say he referred to Tutsis as Inyenzi -- as cockroaches -- and to say we must eliminate them all. He was a genocidier and to say that there is no evidence against him is not correct.

NBC News: What did Mbarushimana normally wear? Did he wear a military uniform? Did he carry guns with him?

Greig: His usual dress tends to be blue jeans, as he was wearing in the account that I just relayed and a camouflage top, wearing a pistol on his belt. Now he was seen on a number of occasions in the U.N. compound wearing that uniform and a number of witnesses to various killings he was at saw him wearing that outfit.

NBC News: So what's happened with this case, what did the U.N. do with your findings?

Greig: Each investigation team has a lawyer attached to it and there was a lawyer attached to me and my assistant. And I had a number of meetings with that lawyer and he agreed with me that there was sufficient evidence to indict Mbarushimana and so he drafted an indictment. And on the 11th of September, 2001 -- a very memorable date -- I met with Carla del Ponte, the chief prosecutor [for the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda], and went over this case and advised her there was sufficient evidence for an indictment and she was familiar with the file. She kept an interest and agreed there was, and at that point, I submitted a report advising that my contacts in Kosovo told me that Mbarushimana was looking for a country to give him refugee status.

Greig: Now, by this time, his contract with the U.N., his one-year contract, came up for renewal and the U.N. had not renewed it. So he was out of work and he was being supported by other Rwandese in Kosovo. And I quickly submitted a report saying this it was now urgent, we have to go out to Kosovo and get him. You have to understand that once an indictment has been signed, all countries that are signature to the U.N. charter will hand a person straight over. You don't have to go through the normal extradition process.

And that was what I was asking to happen and I was told that the indictment would be signed, but I was coming to the end of my one-year contract, I had to return to New Zealand for personal reasons. I did and it was only two years later that I learned the indictment had not been signed and that he in fact had been given refugee status in France, exactly what I predicted.

NBC News: Who individually or organizationally do you blame for what has happened to this case?

Greig: Because I left the U.N. before this decision was made, I can't answer that with accuracy. I know that a senior prosecutor reviewed the evidence and declared that there was insufficient evidence. That was one year after everyone else agreed that there was sufficient evidence. And it was also at a time where the U.N. was being told to reduce the numbers of people it was going to prosecute, to wind it up and prioritize those they were going to prosecute. Now, it has to be said that the ITCR, the International Tribunal Council for Rwanda, was only concerned with leaders of the genocide and it is clear that Mbarushimana was not. He was a middle manager, if you like, a sergeant major type or perhaps a lieutenant, but he was not a leader.

And I think the tribunal overlooked the U.N.'s personal responsibility in this matter and made a decision simply because he had slipped through their net and they were never going to get him, because France is difficult about handing people over under those circumstances and that he wasn't in any case, proportionately, he wasn't in any case a leader. And so the decision was made on purely pragmatic grounds, not to prosecute him. They weren't going to get him. It wasn't going to help the statistics, the numbers that they were going to bring to trial so they let it ride on the basis that there was insufficient evidence. But that is just not correct.

NBC News: All of this work that you've done and the man is still free?

Greig: Well, it's not about me. I feel for the victims. I met with people who are already very angry with the tribunal. Us investigators who went out into the field were faced on occasion with a lot of anger, by people saying why has it taken you five or six year to come and see me? One man whose father worked for the U.N., the Rageema family, he was very angry that it had been left all this while and I promised him that something would be done. Now they have been let down and they deserve more. And this young woman who saw her entire family, the one I read, she deserves more and her family deserves it. So I feel for them.

NBC News: What has this done to the U.N.'s reputation?

Greig: Well, other people are going to have to judge that. I don't think it could have enhanced their reputation at all and of course then we have the decision that Mbarushimana turned around and sued the U.N. for breaching his employment contract as it were, and has been rewarded one-year's salary in lieu, as compensation as loss of employment.

NBC News: What was your response when you heard that?

Greig: I have to confess, I was outraged at that. Again, they made it on the basis that there was no evidence against him and that's not correct. I suppose they have not been -- the administrative tribunal, the U.N.'s own administrative tribunal that reviewed the decision to award him compensation -- I suppose is fixed with the decision of the prosecutor not to indict Mbarushimana on the grounds of that there was no evidence. However, I believe they could have looked behind that. They could have taken count of these statements, which they have and have concluded that his contract was justifiably severed.

NBC News: Given what the U.N. is supposed to stand for and that Mbarushimana was a U.N. employee at the time, do you believe the case against him has added significance?

Greig: Yes I do. He was a U.N. employee. He abused his position in the U.N. to kill other U.N. workers. The U.N. was there to protect other Rwandese. Their self-declared senior representative in Rwanda, a the man who the U.N. did acknowledge as the person they should deal with, he was given money and food to distribute to other U.N. workers by visiting other U.N. workers throughout the war. He didn't do that. He allowed the U.N. to assist in the genocide and the U.N. must have a responsibility to use its own powers to track him down.

The poor Rwandan government, completely ill equipped to investigate the genocide, they have minimal resources, they were not able to compile evidence against him, they tried the best to have him expedited from Kosovo, that application for expedition was dismissed, the U.N. should have stepped in at that point and taken care of its own.

NBC News: Mbarushimana says the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has dropped their indictment against him and that should prove his innocence.

Greig: I am not aware that he's ever been provided with copies of these statements, so I don't think he's qualified to make that statement. The decision not to prosecute was made of the grounds of expediency, not legal grounds, however the U.N. wants to dress it up. He killed many, many people.

NBC News: Where and why do you fault the U.N.?

Greig: I fault the Rwandan Tribunal for start[ers], for being so inefficient that it couldn't organize the proper investigation and bring this man to justice. And he has benefited by all of the years of inefficiency that has preceded this investigation. The overrunning of the budget, the slowness to bring people to justice, the very few indictments that represent it, he has benefited from that because they added up to a system that had to rationalize those who they were going to bring to trial. And then of course, they failed to indict this particular individual on very spurious grounds.

NBC News: The U.N. has recently sent two investigators to essentially follow up on your investigation on how charges could be filed against him? What can you tell us about that and do you believe the U.N. is finally trying to do the right thing?

Greig: Well, certainly, I've been contacted by one of those people and he has expressed an interest in listening to me. He has asked if I will help and I said I will and I know that he has been in contact with other U.N. staffers. There's nothing in the impairing statute, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda statute, that prevents the U.N. from reviewing its own decision to indict Mbarushimana. They can do that. And in my opinion they should, and I hope that that is the recommendation that the president of the investigation comes to.

NBC News: But is that investigation going to garner anything new?

Greig: No. I doubt that it will interview new witnesses and come up with new evidence, but it can review the existing evidence and it can come to the conclusion that the decision that there is no evidence is a wrong one and that there is, in fact, sufficient evidence to indict Mbarushimana on charges of murder, genocide and crimes against humanity.

NBC News: How likely do you think that is?

Greig: I'm going to have to suspend judgment on that. I just don't know. I don't know. The U.N. has been so disappointing to date on the whole Rwanda issue that despite the people they've sent through, and I have no doubt their competence, in the end, the decision is going to be made by other people and not by them.

NBC News: Tell us why you think it's important the U.N. should still pursue this case and what do you believe should be the final outcome?

Greig: I believe that anyone who is contemplating a crime against humanity can only be have been extremely comforted by the performance of the ICTR. It was incredibly inefficient. It has completely failed to capture many of the leaders of the genocide and people who are planning genocide today; they have reason to think that they not will be brought to justice.

I think today that it is essential that the Rwandan tribunal continues to prosecute efficiently. And if the U.N. fails to do that, it is sending entirely the wrong message to people who are in the position to complete these atrocities again.