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Rwanda: Genocide Revisionism Law

(Apr. 2, 2008) On February 8, 2008, members of the Chamber of Deputies (Lower House) of the Rwandan Parliament voted in favor of a controversial new law aimed at stopping "genocide ideology," a term for the outlook that perpetrators of genocide foster to fan divisive hate campaigns between different groups of Rwandans. The law comes in the wake of an increasing number of cases of this "genocide revisionism" in which school children were reportedly involved in ethnically motivated abuse. The draft law has yet to be approved by the Rwandan Senate. Before the genocide of Hutus and Tutsis that took place in Rwanda in 1994, under a scheme that had been instituted by the former Belgian rulers, people were classified into Hutu, Twa, and Tutsi, a classification that was used on national identity cards. A previous Rwandan law had halted the use of ethnicity in any form "to create a population that looks at 'Rwandan' first and superior to any other distinctions." (Rwanda: Parliament Passes Tough Law Against Genocide Revisionism, RWANDA NEWS AGENCY, Feb. 8, 2008, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/200802080914.html.)

The proposed law stipulates that children under 12 years of age found guilty of genocide ideology will be placed in a rehabilitation center for up to a year. Anyone who kills another person due to the influence of genocide ideology or who is involved in a plot to do so will be subject to the punishment of life imprisonment. First offenders against the genocide ideology law will be subject upon conviction to a prison term of 10 to 25 years and fine ranging from RWF200,000 (about US$370) to RWF1 million (about US$1,900). No review of the punishment will be permitted, providing no opportunity for a pardon or reduction of sentence. Repeat perpetrators of a genocide ideology offense will face a life term. (Id.)