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Rwanda’s Senate Votes to Abolish Death Penalty

Rwanda’s senate has unanimously voted to abolish the death penalty. This follows Rwandan cabinet approval at the beginning of the year of the bill put forward by President Paul Kagame. Abolishing the death penalty was one of the preconditions specified by the international community before it transfers genocide suspects to the Rwandan judiciary. It is estimated that about 800 Rwandans on death row would have their sentences commuted to life imprisonment. Government sources say the new law would be promulgated as the death penalty is officially abolished by the end of July.

From the capital Kigali, Rwanda’s Minister for Justice Tharcisse Karugarama tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey that the new law would be operational by the end of this month.

“The senate voted unanimously to abolish the death penalty from the statutes of Rwanda. This is a process that has taken approximately eight months of debates and consultations across the country. The draft law went through the lower chamber of parliament… yesterday was towards the end of the entire process. What remains now is for the law to be signed, and then it would be sent for publication in the government gazette. The date of its publication will be the date when it will become operational. That should happen perhaps I should say before the end of the month,” he said.

He said Rwandans agree that the death penalty has no place in view of the country’s past.

“For ordinary Rwandans who were involved in the debate that proceeded the drafting of the law itself and the debate that went into parliament and into the senate, there were consultations across the country. There was what you can call a 100% unanimity over the abolition. But there was in general terms a general consensus that the death penalty has no place in Rwanda. That Rwandans have lost so many lives, that human life in Rwanda had lost value, and that it was time to restore the dignity of the human life in this country, especially, given its sad history, especially in regard to the genocide,” he pointed out.

Karugarama said he is sure the president would be a happy man concerning the lives that would be spared with the promulgation of the new law.

“I think President Kagame was part of then process that moved this process forward, from the very inception of the idea to abolish the death penalty, he was part and parcel of the process. In the consultations in cabinet, these are meetings he chaired I would imagine that he would be happy to sign into law. You can imagine we have had being close to 800 people on the death role in the country… so I think the president would be saved from exercising a sad duty of signing death sentences, ” Karugarama said.