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Rwanda Official Critical of Amnesty Law Review Appeal

  • Peter Clottey

Rwanda’s Justice Minister has expressed disappointment over the latest report from the human rights group Amnesty International calling on President Paul Kagame’s government to review genocide ideology and sectarianism laws.

Tharcisse Karugarama condemned the report describing it as dishonest and an affront to the government and Rwandans.

The government has said it will review the laws critics charge it uses as tools to suppress its political opponents.

“I did ask different stakeholders, including Amnesty [and] Human Rights Watch to give ideas, if they have any. When they came on board this country, I told them that we are in the process of reviewing that law for different reasons in our own judicial system because we periodically review the laws that we’ve put in place to see how effective they are,” he said.

Karugarama said London-based Amnesty cannot be asking the government to amend the laws when they were aware it was considering reviewing them.

Amnesty international said in its report that both local and international lawyers were unable to define “genocide ideology and sectarianism laws,” especially with some judges saying the measures were broad and abstract.

But, Karugarama said Amnesty International “stole” the government’s initiative in reviewing the laws.

“They want to take our initiative and make it theirs and that is a very dishonest way of doing business. They know we are amending the law. They have given us their ideas and we have responded to them in writing. There was a cabinet decision in April. We asked different stakeholders to provide ideas on how we can improve that legislation,” Karugarama said.

An official with Amnesty International has said that “the ambiguity of the genocide ideology and sectarianism laws means Rwandans live in fear of being punished for saying the wrong thing.”

But, the justice minister said the government has reassured Amnesty it will be taking into consideration its concerns when reviewing the laws to improve them.

“What Amnesty International has not told the world, which is really very unfortunate, is that I gave them three assignments to do for us. One [was] to check for us how this legislation is written in other European countries where hate legislation is in place. They have not responded to that. Then, I ask them also to do research for us on how our courts have interpreted it. They have not done that,” he said.

Officials of Amnesty International were not immediately available for comment despite repeated attempts.