(photo credit: )
Esther Mujawayo's mother, father and husband were killed in Rwanda in 1994, just because they were members of the Tutsi tribe.
She and her three children escaped with the help of a Hutu soldier whom she bribed to lead them to safety.
On Monday, she was among a number of survivors of massive human rights abuses who participated in a side panel organized by the non-governmental group UN Watch. It is one of a number of events they have held at the UN's 2009 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.
"I feel so uncomfortable any time I have to speak on the UN premises," Mujawayo said as she shifted in her chair. She wore a gray suit and her hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Her voice was so low that it was hard to hear her.
The slaughter of close to a million Tutsis by the Hutu in Rwanda, she was said "predictable and preventable." It was possible to "stop the genocide," she said. But instead while she watched the Hutus kill her family and friends, people sat in this same building and debated the semantics of the murders, she said.
They tried to decide if it was a massacre or a genocide, she said. Lives could have been saved if the discussion both in New York and Geneva had been more engaged, she said.
"What are we doing in big buildings, in nice buildings and in all these very smart meetings?" she asked.
"We are talking about the rights of people who will not be there [alive] tomorrow and the day after if we do not act," she said.
People were killed in Rwanda because the state failed to protect them, she said. When that happens there has to be a body that can step it to stop the killings, she said.
"Who is above the state?" she asked, adding that she was disappointed that the UN was not capable of stopping state-sanctioned human rights abuses and genocide.
Earlier in the day, Darfur refugee Tahar Abdeman stood outside the building and told reporters that he was upset that the slaughter of close to half a million people in his country by the Sudanese militia.
"There is a genocide going on" that needs to be addressed, he said.