Saturday, June 05, 2010

Rwanda / Genocide Denial

Rwandan Law on "Genocide Ideology" Impossibly Vague
By Robin Phillips
Minnesota Public Radio, June 4, 2010
"[...] The Rwandan genocide ideology law falls far short of what international human rights law requires. It has been characterized by one human rights organization as 'a very broad, imprecise and even confusing array of activities and expression' which includes 'terms which are widely open for abusive interpretation -- such as "marginalising," "laughing," "mocking," "boasting," and "creating confusion aiming at negating the genocide which occurred" and "stirring up ill feelings" -- or which very obviously have no place in any law -- such as "propounding wickedness."' The evidence suggests that potential abuses of this vaguely worded crime have come to pass. Human rights organizations and the US government alike have denounced the law for having been used to silence those who oppose the government. Erlinder himself went to Rwanda to defend a political opposition leader accused of genocide ideology. Amnesty International reports that at last count there were 912 people in prison, either awaiting trial or serving sentences, on genocide ideology charges.
The government of Rwanda today is under the control of Paul Kagame and his Rwandan Patriotic Front. Exploiting the tragedy of the genocide for political purposes is apparently just one part of Kagame's strategy to continue to hold power. A glance through the U.S. State Department's most recent assessment of human rights in Rwanda reveals that its record of ensuring freedom of speech, assembly, association, and the right of citizens to change their government is abysmal. In addition to politically motivated use of the genocide ideology law to keep government opponents quiet, Amnesty International reports substantial restriction of press freedom, active restriction of opposition political parties, and widespread impunity for members of the Rwandan Patriotic Army and Rwandan Patriotic Front. Erlinder's arrest gives us a glimpse of what Rwandans and millions of others living under repressive governments around the world face every day. [...]"

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