President Paul Kagame flew to Italy yesterday where he is expected to receive an award for Rwanda’s recent abolition of death penalty.
The President will be awarded with “The Abolitionist of the Year 2007” which is presented by Hands Off Cain (HOC) at a high-profile ceremony to be graced by top Italian government officials.
“The award (which is presented) to recognise the person, who, above all others, has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment in the struggle for a moratorium on executions and the abolition of the death penalty, is conferred this year upon President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame,” a release from HOC said.
Founded in Brussels in 1993, HOC is an international pressure group of citizens and parliamentarians championing a campaign to abolish the death penalty the world over.
The release said Kagame’s “personal statement is found as the Preface to Hands Off Cain’s 2007 Report.”
The report, dubbed “The Death Penalty Worldwide”, will also be launched during the same function.
Italy’s President of the Council of Ministers, Romano Prodi, will present the award to President Kagame.
“The abolition of the death penalty and the adherence to the campaign for a universal moratorium on capital punishment are acts of remarkable symbolic value, through which Rwanda has emblematically shown the world the possibility of an end to the absurd cycle of vendetta and that justice and lawfulness cannot be achieved with capital punishment,” the organisation said.Prodi himself wrote the report’s introduction.
The report ‘confirms a positive trend towards the abolition of the death penalty, underway for more than a decade.’
During the ceremony, there will also be a briefing on the international campaign to hold a UN General Assembly vote on a universal moratorium on capital punishment this year.
Expected at the function due to kick-off at 4:15 Rwandan time are President of the Italian Senate, Franco Marini, HOC President Marco Pannella, Italian MPs and foreign ambassadors.
The name “Hands Off Cain” is inspired by the Bible’s first book, the Genesis, where it is stated: “And the Lord set a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him” in reference to Cain who slaughtered his young brother Abel.
The organisation says it stands for “justice without vengeance.”
The process for Rwanda to outlaw death penalty, which was initiated by the ruling RPF political organisation, came to the climax on July 25 when a new law was published in the Official Gazette.The government said the move was intended to underline the value it attaches to life. Rwanda suffered one of the cruellest bloodletting in the 20th Century when at least one million people died during the 1994 Genocide.
The move is also expected to encourage foreign governments to arrest and extradite to Rwanda key Genocide suspects, who remain at large thirteen years after the killing spree.
The new law saw over 1,350 Rwandan convicts who were on death row in various prisons having their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Prior to lifting the capital sentence altogether, the country had already enacted a specific law waiving the penalty from suspects due to be transferred from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which closes shop come December 2008.
Thousands of hundreds of Genocide suspects, most of whom outside prisons, are awaiting trial.Ends