Friday, February 17, 2006

Suicide in Rwanda

I'm not quite sure how to respond to this article today's Washington Post that talks about suicides among people accused of commiting acts of genocide in Rwanda. For those who are falsely accused and cannot live with community pressure, this is a real tragedy. But if one is to suppose that otherwise normal people were caught up in a genocidal frenzy that caused them to act in ways that were contrary to the person that they really are, how can they not feel driven to kill themselves? How does a person live with the knowledge that they hacked a person to death?

Human justice will never be sufficient to punish the crimes of 1994. Just as it was not sufficient to punish the Nazis. When an entire society goes mad, we really don't have the means to cope with it. In Rwanda, where many of the guilty have still not come to trial, and perpetrators and victims see each other every day, the genocide remains an open wound. I sympathize deeply with those who feel that they are being denied justice because the person who raped them, or murdered their family members kills themself; but the implication that these people killing themselves is making things worse suggests that there is a good way to cope with it.

Rwandans deserve a full reckoning of what occured over those hundred days, but nothing is ever going to fix what happened. Perhaps it is wrong to take your own life no matter what you are guilty of, but there is part of me that can't help but think it is the most rational response.

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