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20 Years After Rwandan Genocide, Former U.N. Lead Investigator Says Violence Against the Poor an Everyday Reality

Gary Haugen says everyday violence crushing millions of the world’s poor.

Washington, D.C. (April 7, 2014) – 20 years after the genocide in Rwanda, the United Nations’ lead investigator into the genocide says the poor around the world are still victims of violent crimes every day.

In April 1994, more than 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus are estimated to have been killed over a period of 100 days. Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission, arrived immediately after the killings ended to lead the United Nations Special Investigations Unit in Rwanda.

"When our neighbors in Rwanda most desperately needed protection, the world did not respond. As we documented evidence that would eventually be used to bring the perpetrators to justice, the team and I combed through mangled corpses and desperate personal effects rotting in scores of massacre sites across Rwanda,” said Haugen. “Each day, as we painstakingly documented this horror, we saw a clear and brutal picture of what it looks like to be truly defenseless in the face of violence.”

Haugen says in the 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda, he sees across the developing world a more gradual but massive rise of everyday violence – rape, trafficking, policy brutality, slavery – that will end up crushing more of the world’s poorest across the globe.

“Tragically, like those who perished in Rwanda, our poorest global neighbors are today calling out for protection from this everyday violence through their own justice systems, and for the world to take notice of the nightmares unfolding in their communities, and they are getting neither," said Haugen.

According to a 2008 UN study, four billion of the world’s people live outside the protection of the law. World Bank data suggest that, globally, women and girls ages 15 to 44 are at greater risk of being killed or disabled by everyday gender-based violence than by cancer, traffic accidents, malaria and war combined — with poor women and girls absorbing the vast majority of the abuse.

“We did not respond when our neighbors in Rwanda desperately needed our help. On the twentieth anniversary of that tragedy, my most urgent hope is that we have learned to recognize the uniquely devastating legacy of violence and are better prepared to help those threatened by the sudden tsunami of tomorrow, but also those slowly drowning in the rising tide of everyday violence today,” said Haugen.

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