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“He Would Kill Me With His Penis”: Genocidal Rape in Rwanda as a State Crime

Abstract

Only recently have critical criminologists begun a systematic exploration of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity as state crimes (Kramer and Michalowski 2005; Mullins and Rothe 2008; Haveman and Smeulers 2008). This paper contributes to that growing literature through examining the nature and dynamics of sexual violence as it occurred during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It draws upon empirical examination of events depicted in transcripts of trials held before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. It qualitatively examines the role of leaders in producing mass sexual assaults. It explores how sexual mutilations were more intense expressions of what the genocide’s local leaders hoped to accomplish through the use of rape in the event. It also explores long-term results of victimization for survivors. Finally, this paper then uses an integrated theory of state crime (see Mullins and Rothe 2008; Rothe and Mullins 2006, 2008a) to illuminate the causal forces at play on multiple levels of analysis in producing the sexual violence specifically within the broader genocide.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. This movement was not driven by purely legal concerns. These changes in international law were driven by global women’s NGOs putting pressure on these legal organs. See Wonders and Danner (2006) for a discussion of the role in feminist NGOs in framing contemporary international law.

  2. Indeed the works on rape within civil contexts are voluminous and need not be recited here, but suffice to say that it has theorized more ‘routine’ sexual violence in a more complex manner.

  3. Still, though, there is debate. The first two world wars produced systematic documentation of rape associated with the conquering of an enemy territory (see The Molotov Note 1946; Morgan 1916; Ryan 1966). While a multitude of officers acknowledged its existence, there has been no essential proof that it was used purposefully as a tactic of war. The real question is whether officers knew of it and knew they could not (or would not) stop it, or whether officers saw it as an essential tool in a population’s demoralization as a part of the early stage of an occupation.

  4. While the HIV/AIDS issues are essentially important to any discussion of Africa, space prevents extensive exploration of here. For the purposes of this paper, deliberate HIV infection is one of many ways rape becomes a weapon within the Rwandan genocide.

  5. While there is an active debate on the proper definition of state crime, space limitations restrict engagement with it here.

  6. Social actors, as established within the state crime literature overall, include individuals, organizations and states.

  7. Mens rea was not as essential here, as the ICTR ruled that establishment of motivation was not necessary for conviction.

  8. There are numerous sources which suggest that these trial testimonies do present an accurate and valid depiction of the sexual violence (see Nowrojee 1996; Sharlach 1999, 2000; UNHCHR 1998; Wood 2006).

  9. This does not include the 1 case transferred to national jurisdiction, 3 individuals released, 3 who died before trial and the 18 individuals still at large.

  10. While offender perceptions are also crucial to understanding the nature and dynamics of sexual violence in the trial the defense would simply deny the accused was involved.

  11. The political organization of Rwandan breaks the territory down into Prefectures, when are then broken down into Communes. Bourgmestre is the political executive of a commune.

  12. This is the translation term used in the English version. It is also rendered as ‘exercises’ and ‘marches’ elsewhere.

  13. This was the militia group organized by the military to carry out much of the genocide. It translates as “those who fight together” and compose primarily of disposed Hutu youth (Prunier 1995).

  14. This was not the only instance of such behavior. Several similar events appear in the ICTR transcripts.

  15. Rwandan cultural demands of feminine modesty prevent direct discussion of sexual anatomy, while some witnesses would use the terms ‘sexual organ’ when directed to by court officials, many uses euphemisms.

  16. Due to the large number of fatalities, Rwanda’s sex-ratio is now significantly skewed and will no doubt produce changes in gender roles and positions.

  17. In fact, only one example emerged of a solider refusing to participate in a gang rape was discussed above, when the Interhawame extinguished a cigarette in the victims vagina and walked away.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to thank the guest editor and the 3 reviewers for helpful comments that led to improvements of the manuscripts. Portions of this work were made possible by the Charles Hill Research Excellence Award, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Northern Iowa.

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Correspondence to Christopher W. Mullins.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 1 Individuals indicted by the ICTR on Sexual Assault Charges

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Mullins, C.W. “He Would Kill Me With His Penis”: Genocidal Rape in Rwanda as a State Crime. Crit Crim 17, 15–33 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10612-008-9067-3

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Keywords

  • Sexual Assault
  • Sexual Violence
  • State Crime
  • International Criminal Tribunal
  • Gang Rape