Michael Andrew Hourigan

Michael Hourigan has died. 

Michael Hourigan, you may recall, was an Australian national who in 1996-1997 served as an investigator for the Office of the Prosecution at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  Established in late 1994 by UN Security Council Resolution 955, the ICTR was charged with “prosecuting persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and Rwandan citizens responsible for genocide and other such violations committed in the territory of neighbouring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994…” (para. 1).

Hourigan and his “National Team” of roughly 20 investigators found three members of Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front who had volunteered the information that it was in fact Kagame’s RPF that on April 6, 1994, shot-down then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana’s jet as it approached the airport in Kigali, assassinating Habyarimana as well as President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, along with 11 others.  Both Habyarimana and Ntarymira were Hutu; Kagame, to this day still the president of Rwanda, is Tutsi.  The shoot-down was the incident upon which Kagame’s RPF launched its final military campaign to seize state-power in Rwanda.  In less than 100 days, Kagame’s RPF succeeded.
In early 1997, Hourigan presented ICTR Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour with his evidence that the RPF was responsible for the shoot-down.  But to his shock and surprise, Arbour quashed the investigation and buried the evidence.

At the Second International Criminal Defense Conference, held in Brussels on May 21-23, 2010, Hourigan gave an interview from his home in Australia via Skype (I believe) to ICTR Defense Attorney John Philpot. 

You can watch a video record of Philpot’s 15-minute interview with Hourigan here: “Louise Arbour Was Wrong to Stop My Investigation”.

In the short transcript that follows, I pick-up Hourigan’s words at approximately the 12:20 mark of the video, immediately after John Philpot asked Hourigan: “What transpired at that meeting?”

Michael Hourigan: “We had a meeting early in the morning….I presented her [Judge Louise Arbour] a memorandum…about informants’ information.  She read that.  But her attitude was completely different this one week later.  She was aggressive, very negative, insisted that the information was probably unreliable.  She questioned me as to the sources—of course I couldn’t tell her the names of the informants.  I told her of the investigators on my Tribunal team who had the information.  She was very critical of them.  And, to cut a long story short, she said, in any event, whether the information is accurate or inaccurate, it’s outside our mandate, and the investigation has to come to an end.  And as I’ve indicated…no one had ever said that to me in the previous year.  But in any event, I know that in our own Rwanda Statute, there are provisions that cover acts of terrorism, contrary to her direction, it was clearly within our mandate, and I indicated to her that she was wrong.  And she said to me, Are you questioning my authority?  I said, No, I’m just questioning your judgment.  She said, Well, I’m directing you: This investigation is at an end.  She asked me to leave the room, which I did.  I left the room, and subsequently returned to Kigali, and resigned.”

A copy of the March 8, 2007 Affidavit of Michael Andrew Hourigan to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is archived at the Rwanda Documents Project

The Affidavit recounts in detail the history of Hourigan and his investigative team’s collection of evidence related to the April 6, 1994 shoot-down of President Habyarimana’s jet, and, more important, the subsequent quashing of the investigation by ICTR Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour. 

The Affidavit states that Hourigan and his “National Team” were instructed by the ICTR’s original Chief Prosecutor Richard Goldstone to “Identify the person(s) responsible for the fatal rocket attack on 6 April 1994 killing President Habyarimana and all others on board” (para. 4.4). 

This was some time in the Spring of 1996.  Arbour succeeded Goldstone as Chief Prosecutor at the ICTR in October 1996.  Yet, as Hourigan added, “At no time did Judge Goldstone, Judge Arbour or any other member of the ICTR ever indicate to me that our investigations into the downing of the President Habyarimana’s aircraft were outside the ICTR mandate.  On the contrary, it was made clear to me that our investigations into the rocket attack upon the President’s aircraft was an act of international terrorism which clearly fell within the ICTR’s statute Article 4 Violations of Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions” (para. 6). 

Just as Hourigan does in his interview with John Philpot, his Affidavit recounts his original revelation in early 1997 by a secure phone line to Chief Prosecutor Arbour that his National Team had developed strong evidence showing Kagame’s responsibility for the rocket attack on the presidential jet.  “At no time did she suggest that our investigation was improper,” Hourigan notes (para. 10).

Hourigan then recalls how “senior members of the UN in Kigali” told him that he “was required” to travel to The Hague and brief Arbour herself on the investigation (para. 12). 

The morning after his arrival in The Hague, he personally presented Arbour with a memo titled “Secret National Team Inquiry—Internal Memorandum” (para. 19). 

“To my surprise, Judge Arbour was aggressive and questioned me about the source of the information regarding the informants and the quality and potential reliability of their information” (para. 20).

Hourigan’s Affidavit continues:

22  Judge Arbour then advised me that the National Team investigation was at an end because in her view it was not in our mandate. She suggested that the ICTR’s mandate only extended to events within the genocide, which in her view began ‘after’ the plane crash.
23  I was astounded at this statement. I pointed to the temporal mandate of the ICTR being 1 January 1994 until 3 1 December 1994 and this clearly covered the time of the plane crash. I also addressed the ‘terrorism’ and ‘murder’ provisions of the ICTR statute.
24  More particularly I also told her that this was the first time she had ever suggested that this was outside the ICTR mandate. I reminded her that I had personally briefed her before about our investigations into the plane crash and that she had never ever expressed a view that this matter should not be part of an ICTR inquiry.
25  I expressed my strong view to her that these Rwandan informants were courageous and were deserving of our protection. I cautioned her that the UN had a history of abandoning informants in Rwanda and I specifically reminded her of the UN’s abandonment of Jean Pierre Turatsinze in 1994.
26  Judge then became hostile and asked me if I was challenging her authority to direct to end our investigations into the plane crash.
27  I told her that I was not questioning her authority only her judgement. I informed her that 1 was her servant and I would obey her direction.
28  Judge Arbour then asked me if the memo that I had prepared for her was the only copy. I told her that it was and she said she was pleased to hear that and placed in her office filing cabinet.
29  She then asked me to leave the room.
30  I was extremely concerned at Judge Arbour’s decision and felt that it was wrong both in law and policy.
31  I returned to Kigali and a short time later resigned from the ICTR.  

I believe you get the picture.  Hourigan’s National Team’s investigation into the April 6, 1994 assassination of the Hutu president of Rwanda turned-up evidence that the assassins included among them Paul Kagame, then the leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, soon to become the de facto leader of Rwanda, and since 2000, the president of Rwanda.   One might even call Kagame the Assassin-in-Chief, as it was the elimination of his rival, Juvenal Habyarimana, and the RPF’s well-organized military exploitation of the chaos that followed the assassination that enabled him to take over in Rwanda in 1994.

For her part, Louise Arbour’s tenure as Chief Prosecutor at the ICTR (as well as at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia) was devoted to serving the higher ends of the greater powers.  The alignment of Kagame with Washington from at least 1990 onward meant that Kagame’s responsibility for the assassination of Habyarimana and therefore for the monumental bloodshed that followed it, must not be investigated by the ICTR, let alone prosecuted. 

“Judge Arbour then advised me that the National Team investigation was at an end because in her view it was not in our mandate.”  A crime that clearly does fall within the ICTR’s mandate cannot be permitted to fall within the ICTR’s mandate, if the investigation of it leads to Kagame-RPF responsibility, rather than to “genocidal” Hutu extremist responsibility, as the reigning fiction about the assassination maintains.

That was a political decision on Louise Arbour’s part, taken on behalf of Washington’s interests in the Central African region, ultimately, with Kagame and the RPF simply the immediate beneficiaries; it was not a juridical decision.  The ICTR is a political organ to its very core.    

So Michael Hourigan is now dead.  Meanwhile, the Canadian national Louise Arbour has raced from her role as Chief Prosecutor at the ICTR and ICTY,  to a seat on the Canadian Supreme Court, to the head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, to her current role as the president and CEO of the International Crisis Group.

And Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front remain free and at-large in Central Africa, while the piles of dead bodies for which they bear responsibility continue to grow skywards.
(For more on the 2010 conference from which the interview with Michael Hourigan derived, see The ICTR Legacy from the Defense Perspective – Two. And for material archived from its companion conference, held the previous year, also see The ICTR Legacy from the Defense Perspective – One, The First International Criminal Defense Conference, The Hague, November 14-16, 2009.) 

David Peterson
Chicago, USA

Update (December 9, 2013, 3:00 PM EST): Robin Philpot, the Canadian writer and author of the important new book, Rwanda and the Scramble for Africa: From Tragedy to Useful Imperial Fiction (Baraka Books, 2013), tells me that he first learned of Michael Hourigan’s death on December 2, when it was mentioned by Michael’s brother Chris on Michael’s Facebook page.

“Hello to all Michael’s friends on face book,” Chris Hourigan’s sad entry opens.  “There is no easy way of saying this.  I’m Chris his brother and I’m very sorry to inform you that last night, Michael suffered what is believed to be a massive coronary and as a result has passed away.  Michael was a remarkable man. Who lead a remarkable life.  He saw things that no human should see but he never lost the will to help those less fortunate or his faith in humanity.  Please remember him in your prayers tonight and wish him a safe journey.”

Here I’d like to add something that I find not only amazing but also disgusting.  During the at least eight days since Michael Hourigan died (Dec. 1 or Dec. 2 through today, Dec. 9), I have been unable to find a single published mention of his death, whether in print sources, over the wires, or in a TV or radio transcript.  And that means anywhere.  Yes, that even includes the Australian media that I’m able to access via the Factiva and Nexis databases.  (Carrying out Factiva searches of the form: rst=(twir or tnwp or ttpt) and Michael w/3 Hourigan; and searching within Nexis’ “Major World Publications” and “All News (English)” categories.)

So even searching the vast array of sources archived at Factiva and Nexis, there has been no mention of Michael Hourigan’s death.

Why do you suppose that is?—Have the lies that have always surrounded Paul Kagame’s and the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s seizure of state-power in Rwanda from October 1990 through July 1994 been so totally institutionalized in the English-speaking world that the death of a man who possessed evidence to the contrary about one of the foundational lies, namely, evidence that the April 6, 1994 assassination of the country’s Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana by Tutsi agents carrying out the Tutsi Paul Kagame’s orders, cannot be mentioned, given everything his life and his knowledge entailed?

(For a brief radio discussion of Michael Hourigan’s significance between KPFA’s Ann Garrison and Robin Philpot, you can listen to it here.)


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