By Tererai Karimakwenda
15 September, 2010
The Gukurahundi massacres that saw tens of thousands of innocent Zimbabweans killed by soldiers loyal to the Mugabe regime in the mid eighties, were on Thursday classified as genocide by the internationally recognized group Genocide Watch. Based in Washington DC, the group’s chairperson, Professor Gregory Stanton, said the Mugabe regime has been trying to sweep this atrocity under the rug for 30 years now but this classification now means the perpetrators can be prosecuted no matter how much time has passed.
Speaking to SW Radio Africa Professor Stanton said: “It’s been clear to us from the beginning that this was genocide. The reason why it is important to label it as genocide is because genocide is the crime of crimes. It is the worst of all crimes against humanity”
More importantly Professor Stanton explained that there is no statute of limitations for genocide or for crimes against humanity. This means the people who committed these crimes may be called into court at any time.
He added: “They’ve been trying to act as though this is something that should be forgotten. But it shouldn’t be forgotten because in fact denial is the final stage of genocide. So the question is how do you bring people who have committed genocide to justice.”
The Professor, who was in Harare meeting victims of the atrocities back in 2001, said that a crime as serious as genocide should be investigated by the High Commissioner for human rights at the United Nations, by the African institutions on human rights and the International Criminal Court (ICC).
Since Zimbabwe is not party to the treaty of the ICC, the court could not directly indict Robert Mugabe and others that were involved in the killings.
“But the United Nations Security Council can in fact refer the situation to the ICC, just as they referred the situation in Darfur. And it is the way in which President Bashir of Sudan has now been indicted for genocide,” explained Professor Stanton.
Zimbabwean writer and journalist Geoff Hill, who has been working closely with Professor Stanton to have the Gukurahundi classified as genocide said the development “brings us one step closer to The Hague”, where the ICC is based.
Hill explained that the Gukurahundi fits the criteria for genocide because it was committed against people based on their identity, such as color, race or religion. He said Mugabe targeted for annihilation the Ndebele people in Matabeleland and the Midlands, leaving no doubt that this was indeed genocide.
Just over a year ago, Geoff Hill became the first African to be voted onto the board of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS), a group closely linked to the UN and the ICC.
Hill said that although many years had passed since the Gukurahundi, the genocide classification is important for survivors and for the families of those who died, because they need to know it will never be "too late" to seek justice.