15 April 1994
GENEVA, 15 April (Centre for Human Rights) -- The Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, today expressed deep shock at the mass killings that had occurred in Rwanda since the death of the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on 6 April.
Several thousand civilians had been killed in what had been described as mass slaughter, particularly in the capital Kigali, he said. Those reported to be responsible for the killings included the Presidential Guard and other divisions of the Rwandese Armed Forces, militias composed of armed members of political parties, members of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), as well as bands of armed civilians. It appeared that a large number of the victims were killed at random.
Many were said to have been murdered simply for being seen as members of the Tutsi ethnic group, while others were reportedly killed because they were known to be or suspected of being, opponents of the late President Juvenal Habyarimana, the Special Rapporteur said. Among the victims were five Government ministers, including Prime Minister Agathe Uwiringiyiama and her three children, as well as at least 20 Roman Catholic nuns and priests. Human Rights activities, several of whom were said to have been detained by members of the Presidential Guard in Kigali, may also have been killed.
The Special Rapporteur deplored the killing of 11 Belgian members of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) and of a number of Rwandans working for international agencies in Kigali, many of whom were reported to have been killed by members of the Presidential Guard in front of the expatriate staff. The Special Rapporteur was particularly appalled at attacks on staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The Special Rapporteur visited Rwanda from 8 to 17 April 1993. In his report on that visit, issued on 11 August 1993, he had made a number of recommendations aimed at improving the human rights situation in the country, and, in particular, at putting in place effective measures for the protection of civilians against massacres. He placed special emphasis on the need for a national reconciliation campaign to eliminate the negative effects of the deliberate policy of disinformation that advocated ethnic and political intolerance, hatred and violence. Of equal importance, according to his report, was reform of the Rwandese judicial system and an end to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of human rights violations.
The peace agreement signed between the Government of Rwanda and the RPF on 4 August 1993 in Arusha, Tanzania, appeared to pave the way for reconciliation, he said. However, political violence had not ceased and, in the current massacres, had reached an unprecedented scale.
The Special Rapporteur reminded all parties to the conflict of their obligation under every and any code of law to honour the right to life. He called for full respect for international humanitarian law, in particular calling on the armed forces and the RPF to immediately stop acts of violence against civilians and to use their influence over militias and other groups of armed civilians to that effect. The humanitarian emblem of the ICRC must be respected by all sides as a matter of priority. The Special Rapporteur also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all those who had been arbitrarily detained.
The Special Rapporteur also reminded States who might receive asylum seekers from Rwanda fleeing for their lives of their obligations under international law.
Those people were entitled to seek refuge and States must not send them on to a place where they might be in danger. The international community and, in particular, the United Nations and the Organization of African States, must urgently take measures to stop the slaughter, he said.
With a view to the future, he concluded, the parties involved, neighbours in the region and the United Nations must act, jointly and decisively, to secure protection of the right to life of all persons, regardless of their ethnicity.