Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch
Welcome to Africa Great Lakes Democracy Watch Blog. Our objective is to promote the institutions of democracy,social justice,Human Rights,Peace, Freedom of Expression, and Respect to humanity in Rwanda,Uganda,DR Congo, Burundi,Sudan, Tanzania, Kenya,Ethiopia, and Somalia. We strongly believe that Africa will develop if only our presidents stop being rulers of men and become leaders of citizens. We support Breaking the Silence Campaign for DR Congo since we believe the democracy in Rwanda means peace in DRC. Follow this link to learn more about the origin of the war in both Rwanda and DR Congo:http://www.rwandadocumentsproject.net/gsdl/cgi-bin/library
Monday, August 30, 2010
Amnesty Int’l calls on Rwanda to review ‘genocide ideology’ law
The report titled “Safer to Stay Silent : The Chilling Effect of Rwanda’s Laws on Genocide Ideology and Sectarianism” details how the vague wording of these laws is misused to criminalize criticism of the government and legitimate dissent by opposition politicians, human rights activists and journalists.
“The ambiguity of the ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’ law means Rwandans live in fear of being punished for saying the wrong thing,” said Erwin van der Borght, Africa Program director at Amnesty International. “Most take the safe option of staying silent.”
Amnesty found that many Rwandans, even those with specialist knowledge of Rwandan law including lawyers and human rights workers, were unable to precisely define ‘genocide ideology’. Even judges, the professionals charged with applying the law, noted that the law was broad and abstract.
In the lead-up to the August 9 presidential elections in Rwanda, two opposition candidates were arrested and charged, among other things, with ‘genocide ideology’. A newspaper editor was also arrested on the same charge.
The BBC and VOA have both been accused of disseminating ‘genocide ideology’ by the government. These accusations led to the suspension of the BBC Kinyarwanda service for two months from April 2009.
At a local level, individuals appear to use ‘genocide ideology’ accusations to settle personal disputes. These laws allow for the criminal punishment even of young children under 12, as well as parents, guardians or teachers convicted of “inoculating” a child with “genocide ideology”. Sentences for convicted adults range from 10 to 25 years imprisonment.
The report says that ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’ laws were introduced to restrict speech that could promote hatred in the decade following the 1994 genocide. Up to 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the genocide, mostly ethnic Tutsi, but also Hutu who opposed the organized killing. Prohibiting hate speech is a legitimate aim, but the approach used by the Rwandan government has violated international law.
The Rwandan government announced a review of the ‘genocide ideology’ law in April 2010. The report however called on the government to also launch a review of the ‘sectarianism’ law and demonstrate a new approach to freedom of expression in order to stem the chilling effect of past legislation.
“The Rwandan government must significantly amend the laws, publicly express a commitment to freedom of expression, review past convictions and train police and prosecutors on how to investigate accusations.
“We hope that the government review will result in a meaningful revision of the ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’ laws so that freedom of expression is protected both on paper and in practice,” said Erwin van der Borght.