Review by Caitlin Zeigler
It was 1994 and the mayor of a town called Taba was accused of war crimes. He was to be charged with genocide. Everyone in the town of Taba was shocked to hear it because people thought Mayor Akayesu hid from the militia or was forced by them to do the terrible things that were done. It occurred in 1994 and millions had died, but it wasn’t in the news. The focus in America was on O.J. Simpson’s trial.
Everyone from lawyers to rape survivors helped to take down one of the worst war criminals ever, while also putting a spotlight on genocide, rape and making rape a serious charge when going after someone accused of international war crimes. Pierre Prosper and Sara Darehshori were the Lead and Co-Counsel for the Prosecution. Patricia Sellersn was the Legal Advisor for Gender. Binaifer Nowrojee was the Researcher for Human Rights Watch in the Women’s Rights Division. Lisa Pruitt was the Gender Consultant.
They were young people, who either dealt with serious cases that were not of this magnitude or they’ve never had a serious case before. They were considered underdogs and they had to pull out all stops to make sure Akayesu would pay for his crimes. At times it seemed impossible, but with the help of Lisa Pruitt and the survivors, they won.
Godelieve Mukasarasi was a rape survivor, who convinced other women to come forward. She opened up SEVOTA for everyone to have the chance to come in and let everything they were holding in out. She convinced other survivors, Victoire Mukambanda, Serafina Mukakina and Cecile Mukarugwiza to go to trial and speak out about the horrors that occurred. Rape was always a charge prosecutors could go after if it occurred in a war crime, but it was viewed as miniscule as stealing food.
Lisa Pruitt came up with guidelines for how to handle a rape charge. It was everything from how to talk to the survivor to how to talk to the perpetrator. Lisa’s guidelines were put on a backburner when everyone was told not to go after a rape charge because it was so miniscule. After it seemed like Akayesu could play dumb and possibly get away with all of his charges, the crime of rape was added to his charges, the judges viewed it as a serious offense, the survivors testified and Akayesu is now rotting in a cell.
This documentary was shot and edited very well. It shows and mentions very disturbing things, but it is necessary to discuss, so that everyone can be aware and do their part. Rape is still viewed as a taboo subject that people don’t feel like they can talk about. This documentary shows why it needs to be addressed. These atrocities, such as rape and genocide, still occur and it’s important to know why they are still happening and what can be done about it. Watch this documentary. You might hate the feeling you get while watching, but you won’t regret watching.