24 years ago, over one million Rwandans lost their lives during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This week, several activities will be undertaken in commemoration of the tragedy that befell the country with a continued promise to never let it happen again.
In the Preamble of the Constitution of Rwanda, there is a commitment to prevent and punish the crime of genocide. Additionally, genocide denial and revisionism thereof are to be fought in a bid to eradicate genocide ideology and all its manifestations. This is achieved through outlawing divisionism and discrimination based on ethnicity, region or any other ground.
The commitment of Rwanda to preventing genocide and punishing the crime is reiterated in article 10 of the constitution. It is one of the fundamental principles and home-grown solutions.
Article 16 of the constitution of Rwanda provides protection from discrimination regardless of ethnicity, ancestry, skin colour, sex, economic status, religion, opinion, culture, language as well as physical or mental wellbeing.
The crime of genocide is a gross violation of human rights and for this reason; there is no statute of limitation for the prosecution of perpetrators of this crime. This is according to article 29 of the constitution. This means that no matter how long it takes, those who commit such a crime will be brought to book.
In order to minimise the threat of reoccurrence of genocide and other related crimes, it’s important to fully appreciate its seriousness. That is why, according to the Penal Code of Rwanda, negating or minimising the Genocide against the Tutsi is a punishable crime.
In that regard, article 116 of the Penal Code states: “Any person who publicly shows, by his/her words, writings, images, or by any other means, that he/she negates the Genocide against the Tutsi, rudely minimises it or attempts to justify or approve its grounds, or any person who hides or destroys its evidence shall be liable to a term of imprisonment of five to nine years.”
If a political party or an association is guilty of negating or minimising the atrocities committed in 1994, it is liable to being dissolved.
The state of Rwanda has committed to improving the welfare of the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. In this regard, article 50 of the constitution states: “The State, within the limits of its means and in accordance with the law, has the duty to undertake special actions aimed at the welfare of the survivors of the Genocide against Tutsi.”
According to article 52 of the constitution of Rwanda, the state is also committed to preserving memorial sites of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Any person who destroys a Genocide memorial site, steals remains of the victims or commits a crime in relation to the Genocide is punishable under the Penal Code of Rwanda. Most of the punishments carry a life sentence.