RWANDA: Protect genocide survivors, authorities urged

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

As Rwanda marks the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide on 8 April, the authorities are being called upon to provide better protection for genocide survivors who receive death threats.

"The Rwandan authorities should put in place stringent measures to stop acts of atrocity against genocide survivors," said Théodore Simburudali, the head of the umbrella organisation for genocide survivors known by its local name Ibuka, which means “remember” in Kinyarwanda.

The authorities, Simburudali added, lacked rigour in arresting and prosecuting those charged with killing genocide survivors. He cited the killings of a number of witnesses and judges involved in the "gacaca" courts in different parts of the country by unidentified people.

The gacaca is a traditional court system established to prosecute suspects accused of minor roles in the 1994 genocide in an effort to reduce the backlog of cases in formal courts.

"The authorities sometimes argue that the cause of the killings is related to [other reasons], but this is looking for a scapegoat," he told IRIN.

At least eight genocide survivors have been killed in the last two weeks in different parts of the country, he added, but only one arrest has been made. The latest incident was the killing of a genocide survivor who was a student at Rubengera Secondary School, in the west of the country.

According to aid agency estimates, at least 800,000 people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, were killed in 1994.

A number of events have been planned countrywide as part of a seven-day commemoration between 7 and 13 April under the theme: "Let us commemorate genocide while fighting against genocide ideology and render assistance to survivors while working for development."

Source: IRIN