Rwanda : FIDH honours the memory of the victims and survivors of the genocide

Press release
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20 years ago, first in Kigali and then in the whole country, close to one million Tutsis were the target of mass genocide and moderate Hutus were massacred by the regime of President Habyarimana. On the 20th anniversary of the genocide, FIDH wishes to honour the memory of the victims and survivors of this tragedy. FIDH also calls on Rwandan authorities and the international community to pursue the fight against impunity for its alleged perpetrators and to ensure that such madness will never happen again, in particular by supporting democracy and human rights.

On 7 April 1994, the day after President Habyarimana’s death, 100 days of slaughter began in Kigali. The systematic massacres of Tutsis as well as that of any persons standing against the genocide took the lives of nearly one million people. They were systematically tracked down and killed with in such a manner that they endured incredible suffering. Thousands of survivors later reported that the objective of those holding the “Hutu power” was to exterminate them.

“  The Rwandan genocide is a gaping wound in our common history, a destructive fury which has affected survivors forever. On this sad day, we wish to honour the memory of the victims and the survivors and to remember each and every one of them  ” , said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.

In March 1993, FIDH and six other human rights organisations warned that the groundwork for genocide was taking place in Rwanda. Our organisations published a report (in French) denouncing the “massive, systematic” human rights violations being committed since 1 October 1990, “with the deliberate intention to attack a specific ethnic group” – acts that marked only the beginning of a genocidal mentality implemented in April 1994.

After the genocide, FIDH and HRW conducted investigations to estimate the magnitude of the crimes that had been committed, and to determine who was responsible. These investigations led to the drafting of one of the most comprehensive book on the Rwandan genocide: a book entitled “Leave None to Tell the Story” mainly written by Alison Desforges, who has since passed away.

“  With Alison Desforges, we sought to understand and to prove the planning and the genocidal intent. We also tried to understand how the machinery of the State was used as a killing machine. Without it, such level of efficiency and sophistication would have never been reached  ”, said M. Eric Gillet, former FIDH official on the mission.

In 1996, FIDH and Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigated claims of widespread sexual violence committed during the genocide and their consequences. Based on testimonies and analyses, the report (in French) entitled, “Shattered lives: Sexual violence committed during the genocide and their consequences”", pointed out the mechanisms and the impacts of this aspect of the genocidal crime on both women and society.

During the Rwandan genocide, the use of rape as a weapon of war was largely employed to punish Tutsi women for being Tutsi, said Sheila Muwanga Nabachwa, FIDH Vice-President.Sadly, 20 years after this tragedy, women’s bodies are still used as a battlefield in Africa and elsewhere. We must react to make this change, she added.

FIDH would also like to set this 20th anniversary under the banner of the struggle for justice for the victims and survivors of the Rwandan genocide. FIDH published a press kit related to the twenty year fight for justice and against the impunity of perpetrators of the genocide. As a civil party in more than 20 French legal proceedings targeting alleged perpetrators of genocide, FIDH and its Legal Action Group (LAG) contributed to the first victory for the victims achieved on 14 February 2014. On that day, Captain Pascal Simbikangwa was sentenced by the Criminal Court in Paris with genocide and complicity in crimes against humanity and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

The fight against impunity for the alleged perpetrators of the genocide is not over. It continues worldwide. In France alone, 27 legal proceedings are under-way, 20 of which FIDH is a civil party, stated Patrick Baudouin, FIDH lawyer in these proceedings and Head of FIDH’s LAG.

FIDH will attend commemoration ceremonies marking the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in Kigali, and remember those men and women activists of the Rwandan League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (LIPRODHOR) - an FIDH member organisation - who died for freedom during the genocide. Despite LIPRODHOR’s courageous work - before, during and after the genocide – the organisation is subject to attacks and attempts to control by Rwandan authorities. FIDH also publishes a paper on the current situation in Rwanda, entitled “Rwanda : Ensuring public and individual freedoms, behind the scenes”. It shows that the fight for freedoms remains a current issue in the country.

We should not forget the genocide and the victims, and by listening to the voices of survivors, we are reminded that the 20th century was a century of genocides and mass murders. The human community should ensure that neither Africa nor any other part of the world ever suffers such systematic destruction, said Drissa Traore, FIDH Vice-President.

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