Justice on the Grass

Justice on the Grass : Three Rwandan Journalists, Their Trial for War Crimes and a Nation's Quest for Redemption

3.96 (54 ratings by Goodreads)
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The 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were massacred in just 100 days, was an unparalleled modern-day slaughter. How does a nation pick up the pieces after the killing has stopped? In a gripping narrative that examines the power of the press and sheds light on how the media turned tens of thousands of ordinary Rwandans into murderers, award-winning author and journalist Dina Temple-Raston traces the rise and fall of three media executives -- Ferdinand Nahimana, Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, and Hassan Ngeze. From crime to trial to verdict, Temple-Raston explores the many avenues of justice Rwanda pursued in the decade after the killing. Focusing on the media trial at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, she then drops down to the level of the hills, where ordinary Rwandans seek justice and retribution, and examines whether politics in the East African nation has set the stage for renewed violence. In the months leading up to the killing, two local media outlets, Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and the tabloid newspaper Kangura, warned that a bloody confrontation was brewing. No one would be spared, they said. Observers said later that fearmongering from RTLM and Kangura played a key role in igniting the genocide, so much so that the three men behind the media outlets became the first journalists since Nuremberg to be tried in an international court for crimes against humanity. Drawing on extensive interviews with key players, Dina Temple-Raston brings to life a cast of remarkable characters: the egotistical newspaper editor Hassan Ngeze; hate radio cofounders, the intellectual Ferdinand Nahimana and the defiant legal scholar Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza; an American-led prosecution team wary of a guilty verdict that might bring a broadly written judgment muzzling the press the world over; the bombastic American defense attorney John Floyd; heroic Damien Nzabakira, who risked his life to drive forty orphans to safety only to spend eight years in prison accused of their murder; and Bonaventure Ubalijoro, a Rwandan diplomat and politician who believed in miracles. An extraordinary feat of reporting and narrative, Justice on the Grass reveals a Rwanda few have seen. A searing and compassionate book, Justice on the Grass illustrates how, more than a decade later, a country and its people are still struggling to heal, to forgive, and to make sense of something that defies credibility and humanity.
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Product details

  • Electronic book text
  • The Free Press
  • United States
  • 8-pp b-w photo insert; 1 map; index; notes
  • 0743279719
  • 9780743279710

Review quote

"A beautifully crafted and deeply moving study of the Rwandan genocide and the unprecedented war crime trial of journalists that followed. Temple-Raston's enormously sophisticated description of that controversial trial, which raised profound and painful issues about freedom of the press, makes the book a memorable contribution to public discourse." -- Floyd Abrams, partner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, LLP "While the story of the Rwandan genocide as it happened has been told in black and white, the story of its aftermath requires a more subtle intelligence, and Temple-Raston identifies and exposes all the moral ambiguity of the current situation. Her characters are by turns vivid, engaging, and frightening, her narrative moving, strange, and sometimes wonderfully humorous. In telling the story of the notorious media trial, she shows us what it means for a small country and the world to grapple with the unspeakable, delineating the unlikely heroism of those who achieve dignity in the face of tragedy, the palpable evil of those who would undermine humanity, and the pathos of those who belatedly aspire to grace. This is both a gripping book about fundamental values and an important historical document." -- Andrew Solomon, author of "The Noonday Demon" ""Justice on the Grass" is an important addition to the growing literature on the worst genocide since the Holocaust. By following in beautifully etched detail the war crimes trial of three Rwandan journalists, Dina Temple-Raston has found new dimensions to the Rwandan tragedy and raised important questions about the role of the media in such events." -- Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke "Ten years after the genocide in Rwanda, the world still struggles to comprehend the horror. "Justice on the Grass" provides brilliant new insights into perpetrators' psyche and the challenges of rebuilding Rwanda's war-torn society. It is a must read for those seeking answers." -- Ambassador Nancy E. Soderberg ""Justice on the Grass" is a compelling, precisely reported account that succeeds where few other books on the Rwandan massacres have: it puts a human face -- actually several human faces -- on a series of crimes and by so doing provides new haunting depth to what had previously been a shapeless, and often nameless, horror." -- Marie-Pierre Poulain, counsel, Avocats Sans Frontieres
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Rating details

54 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 33% (18)
4 37% (20)
3 22% (12)
2 7% (4)
1 0% (0)
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