Ethnic tensions between the majority Hutu (85 percent) and the minority Tutsi
(14 percent) in Rwanda precede the Belgian colonial period. But in 1994,
escalating civil and political differences resulted in ethnic cleansing that
reached massive proportions. Without a stable central government or any form
of civilian authority, the Rwandan people today lack basic political and
civil rights, and suffer gross human rights violations:
As a result of the murder of President Juvenal Habyarimana of the National
Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND) in April 1994, Rwanda
plunged into a bloody ethnic war.
=>An estimated half a million people, mostly Tutsi, were massacred in
one of the most terrifying, large-scale genocides in modern history.
More than a year later, victims' relatives are still waiting for the perpetrators
to be brought to justice.
=>Approximately 47,000 prisoners nationwide have been detained by the
current government, many without a formal charge or trial, on suspicion that
they participated in the 1994 genocide.
=>About 100 prisoners a month are dying of diseases caused largely by
the overcrowding in Rwanda's largest prison, which was built for 400 inmates
but holds 7,000. Others have been held in secret detention centers, or have
been subjected to torture.
=>Some of these suspects have been falsely accused and are arbitrarily
being held on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.
The human rights movement, seriously weakened by the loss of members during
the genocide, is struggling to survive. The Rwandan judicial system has virtually
collapsed, and does not have the capacity to investigate or try those suspected
of gross human rights abuses.
=>The Rwandan authorities have acknowledged that more than 20 percent
of those detained are innocent, but that they lack the resources to examine
=>There are only about 12 prosecutors in the whole country, and only 36
criminal investigators (out of 360 previously employed).
Recognizing its inability to cope with the enormous task of bringing justice
to a country devastated by genocide and civil war, the Rwandese Transitional
National Assembly has passed a law allowing foreign judicial experts to work
The new Rwandan government, backed by the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic
Front (RPF), contains a broad-based coalition of Hutu and Tutsi. However,
the alliance is fragile, and ethnic violence persists between the ruling
RPF and Hutu opposition.
Sources:Human Rights Watch 1994 Country Report, Amnesty International's Rwanda:
Crying out for Justice (April 1995)
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