The Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo yesterday issued a stern warning to revisionists and ideologues who engage in Genocide denial that they will be prosecuted and imprisoned because the crime is serious.
Reacting to a decision by court to deny bail to American lawyer, Prof. Peter Erlinder, Mushikiwabo said that laws on Genocide denial are not about politics or symbolism, but rather laws that Rwanda regards highly as tools of justice.
“There has been a lot of theatrics surrounding this case — not least from the defendant himself — but the fundamental issue at stake is whether Rwandans believe it is permissible for Genocide defenders and deniers to threaten the hard-won stability and harmony they have built in 16 years,” Mushikiwabo said in a statement released by her office.
Mushikiwabo said that the Rwandan people ‘overwhelmingly answer no’ the right of Erlinder and ‘his co-conspirators’ to peddle lies and conspiracy, adding their activities threaten the rights of Rwandans to heal and prosper.
“The Prosecution of Peter Erlinder is not a political tactic; it is an act of justice. If critics disagree with the Rwandan laws against the denial or defence of Genocide, we invite and welcome that debate.
“What we reject is the politicisation of the matter, when nothing strikes Rwandans as less political and more deeply personal than lies and distortions about our tragic and traumatic past,” Mushikiwabo said.
She also noted that Erlinder’s health, on which he based his request for bail, is something the government considers seriously.
“The Government respects the court ruling and has no interest in seeing Mr. Erlinder’s health suffer. He will be accorded all necessary medical and consular support, as well as full access to his legal counsel.”
“The Government of Rwanda takes no pleasure from Mr. Erlinder’s plight, but this needs to be understood; flagrant and orchestrated breaches of our Genocide ideology laws will be met with the full force of the law,” Mushikiwabo said.
“Perhaps Mr. Erlinder thought that his citizenship, academic standing or media profile woul protect him — why else would a law professor so knowingly and deliberately break the law by entering Rwanda? But he failed to understand that Genocide defenders and deniers — however rich, powerful or well connected — are regarded by Rwandans as serious criminals hell-bent on destabilising our nation”.
Last week, Mushikiwabo said that Rwanda would not short-circuit legal procedures and release the lawyer, despite a request by the United States to release him on compassionate and humanitarian grounds.
She added that the country will have to take Erlinder through the procedures to answer charges against him, and at the same time consider his health concerns.