Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rwanda's overcrowded prisons and ideological crimes

Rwanda's Gitarama Prison, described on, on 03.10.2010, as one of the "Top 5 Most Horrible Prisons on Earth."  In 2007, Amnesty International reported that Gitarama Prison held 7,477 detainees, though its capacity was 3,000.

"Genocide ideology" became a crime in Rwanda in 2003, the same year President Paul Kagame officially became Rwanda's president, with that year's ratification of the new Rwandan Constitution, available online in PDF format.  The Constitution includes Article 13: 

Article 13
The crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes do not have a period of limitation. 
Revisionism, negationism and trivialisation of genocide are punishable by the law.

Article 13 criminalizes not only genocidal violence, but also disagreement with the received history of the Rwanda Genocide, which has become a major issue in Rwanda's 2010 presidential election.   Many academics, journalists, and human rights investigators, the International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, and, Judge Fernando  Andreu of Spain's National Court, now disagree with the received history of who and how many died, who killed whom, who was most responsible, and how the tragedy unfolded, but Rwandan citizens who disagree must take care not to do so publicly.  

University of Michigan Professor Allan Stamm, concluded, with University of Notre Dame Professor Christian Davenport, that the vast majority of people who died in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide were Hutus.  Stamm presented his findings at the University of Michigan's Coming to a New Understanding of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.   Professor Stamm's passport to Rwanda has been revoked, but he remains safe in the United States.   

An additional 2008 statute, named "the genocide ideology law," was passed by Rwanda's Parliament and published in Kinyarwanda, English, and French, in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Rwanda, also in PDF.

This enthusiastic  article, "Rwanda: New Law to Fight Genocide Ideology," published in the New Times, and then republished, as always, on, says: 

Kigali — Recently, lawmakers voted in a new law aimed to tackle cases of genocide ideology. The draft law was last Friday forwarded to the Senate for scrutiny. Legislators said the law was necessary to help fight the deadly ideology which plunged the country into the 1994 Genocide. The Bill is introduced months after damning revelations that showed cases in which school children demonstrated predisposition to the genocide ideology. The Senate had also found rampant genocide ideology in families, schools and some individuals which sparked the House to react immediately to stop the vice.

The damning revelations of genocide ideology in schools by the lower chamber of Parliament caused an uproar in the House which decided to uproot the vice and save the young generation from contamination.

Under the new law, children under 12 years found guilty will be sent to rehabilitation centres for not more than 12 months.   

This highly critical 10.13.2009 Human Rights Watch report, "You will be punished," says:

Largely aimed at the Hutu population, such offenses permit, among other measures, the government to send away children of any age to rehabilitation centers for up to one year—including for the teasing of classmates—and for parents and teachers to face sentences of 15 to 25 years for the child’s conduct. The government has repeatedly accused the Voice of America, the British Broadcasting Corporation and other media outlets, as well as Human Rights Watch, of promoting genocide ideology; accusations these organizations deny.

Rwanda's rate of incarceration, which is the third highest per capita in the world, second only to that of the United States and Russia, according to the King's College 2009 World Prison Population List, .  The report  includes a brief with this summary chart saying that Rwandan prisons hold 58,311 people, 593 per 100,000, and that roughly 37,000 of these are "awaiting trial or serving sentences for crimes associated with the genocide of 1994." 

Prison population total
(including pre-trial detainees / remand prisoners)
at October 2008 (U.S. State Department human rights report - includes about 37,000 awaiting trial or serving sentences for crimes associated with the genocide of 1994)
Prison population rate
(per 100,000 of national population)
based on an estimated national population of 10.0 million at mid-2008 (from United Nations - if the genocide prisoners were excluded the prison population rate would be 223)

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