Why laws on genocide ideology were separated and amended

Sunday October 7 2018

amendment

Laws on genocide ideology were amended and cases of these crimes have drastically reduced. PHOTO | FILE 

By RODRIGUE RWIRAHIRA
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Rwandans are making significant progress towards respect for law and are coexisting peacefully for the past decade reflecting unity and reconciliation, leading to reduction of genocide ideology penalties.

Previously, a genocide ideology convict would be given a jail time ranging between five to nine years with a fine of Rwf100,000 to Rwf1 million.

The separate genocide ideology law in articles 5, 6 and 7 provides that any person found guilty of denial, minimisation, justification and ideology of genocide will be liable to serve a sentence of not more than four years but also not less than two years with a fine of not less than Rwf500,000 but also not exceeding Rwf1 million.

Rationale

Explaining the rationale that pushed amendments of the penal code and why crimes relating to ideology of genocide were to be catered for by a specific law, Johnston Busingye, Rwanda’s Minister of Justice ruled out succumbing to pressure from international organisations.

“In the past 10 years or 14, there was a time when offences of genocide ideology would be very high in number and would have a bad in impact to the country and on survivors,” he said.

The Minister argued that amendments to penalties were motivated by unity and reconciliation; peaceful coexistence between citizens and respect of laws according to reports by national commissions in charge of unity and reconciliation and human rights.

“You can take one year where we used to have between 30 and 50 cases of genocide ideology and compare it to the numbers today which range between eight and nine cases. We are seeing these numbers fundamentally and drastically reducing. Surveys from different governance institutions so far tell us that levels of reconciliation, levels of respect for law, coexistence; non-discrimination, respect for each other keep going up,” said Mr Busingye.

The Minister added that the government resolved to increase fines in order to harmonise them with the current financial context but to also allow people to move forward with their lives even after they have been penalised.

Amnesty International previously published a series of reports that alleged that Rwanda was instituting vague legislations aimed at suppressing political dissent and to stifle freedom of speech in what it termed sectarianism.

“The ambiguity of the ‘genocide ideology’ and ‘sectarianism’ law means Rwandans live in fear of being punished for saying the wrong thing. Most take the safe option of staying silent,” reads part of the report issued by Amnesty International in 2012 when the penal code was adopted.

In May, when parliament was debating the two laws, legislators said they sought to harmonise sentences with other laws by specifically removing penalties in the current penal code that are catered for by the new law on genocide ideology and other related offences.

The law also sought to criminalise genocide ideology and offences recognised by the international criminal courts or the United Nations.