Wikimedia photo by Rodhullandemu, licensed under Wikimedia Commons
March 27, 2019
The politics of genocide: Speaker explores origins of current-day genocide denial strategies
Dr. Tim Gallimore, PhD, former spokesperson for the prosecutor of the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), will speak about genocide ideology and genocide denial as part of the Faculty of Social Work’s Positive Disruption series. The talk is Thursday, April 11, Glenbow Museum Theatre, 130 - 9 Ave. S.E. Calgary, 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. This presentation is during Rwanda’s official week of mourning that follows Genocide Memorial Day on April 7. The year 2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The Rwandan Canadian Society will hold a memorial ceremony in Calgary on April 13 at Mount Royal University.
On April 15, 1994, Gallimore received a phone call that marks a pivotal moment in his life. “My wife was in Quebec at a conference when she got the news that her family had been exterminated,” he recalls. “I remember her crying on the phone and what we went through to deal with that. We had young children at the time. How do you describe to them that their grandmother was just murdered. So I remember it quite vividly.”
Following that phone call, Gallimore and his wife, Dr. Rangira Béa Gallimore, PhD, a professor of French at the University of Missouri, have written, researched and spoken extensively about the genocide in Rwanda. The couple have tried to heal from their personal calamity by focusing on “recovery and education” to help people understand as much as possible what happened, with the goal of preventing a repeat of genocide.
Gallimore at the centre of search for justice
Gallimore was at the centre of the search for justice when he served as spokesperson for the ICTR prosecutor in Arusha, Tanzania. The ICTR handed down its last ruling in December 2015, after spending a staggering $2 billion to prosecute high-level genocide perpetrators. The tribunal listened to more than 3,000 witness accounts and in the end sentenced only 61 convicts for the slaughter of more than 800,000 people in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
When he speaks in Calgary on April 11, Gallimore says he intends to use the theme of the Positive Disruption series to highlight the role of the Rwandan media in spreading propaganda and hate as part of the preparation and implementation of the genocide. He will also discuss the current use of social media to promote genocide ideology and genocide denial.
Canadian connection to genocide denial ideology
Gallimore says many genocide denial strategies were created during the ICTR trials by the defense teams lead by a number of Canadian lawyers including Christopher Black. He recalls that, “These defence attorneys would make arguments and say things that even the defendants themselves wouldn't say in terms of denying that genocide happened, that genocide was provoked, and that there was a double genocide.” The defence attorneys were calculating even with the terminology they used before the tribunal to describe what happened.
“They argued that these were war crimes, these were civil war casualties, these were massacres but not genocide as defined by the Geneva Convention,” says Gallimore. “So a lot of the current-day narrative and philosophy for genocide denial really started with those defence attorneys. They were latched onto by some of the organized social and political groups who now run an active campaign of genocide denial around the world.”
Gallimore says, “There is a lot that Canadians can do and a lot people can learn about this crucial issue.”